I just gave my daughter a kiss, wishing her well for her first day in grade 2. I am excited to think about the progress she will make this year. I expect that Anya’s reading and writing skills will greatly improve, as will her ability to do math. One of the things I love about our school system is that the progress of students is expected. And as the homework comes home I will remind my daughter that the aim of this work is her progress—that if she gives careful attention to her studies it will help advance her skills in a variety of subjects.
I long for this kind of intentionality to return to the local church. I long for a resurgence of expectations around our growth as followers of Jesus.
There are a number of metaphors that suitably describe the local church. The church is like a family—where we care for and support one another, celebrating together in good times and persevering together through difficult times. The church is like a hospital—this is a place to come and have our spiritual wounds mended, and where preventive medicine can be procured. The church is like an orchestra where a diverse selection of instruments work together to produce a unified sound.
I also believe that the church is like a school where students learn, advance their skills, and grow.
One of my greatest fears as a Christian is stagnation. I recognize that Christ redeemed me in order to transform me (Ephesians 2:10), and so if I’m not making progress then I’m dishonouring the Lord’s purpose for me.
What then, is the plan? If our growth in grace is not automatic, if becoming increasingly like Jesus is not our default setting, what needs to be done in order to promote progress?
I love the description the apostle Paul gives in his first letter to the Corinthians (Giving us yet another metaphor!): “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly” (1Cor. 9:25,26).
I think there is a way to approach the Christian life which is tantamount to “running aimlessly”. This is not the way of progress.
Growth in grace comes from diligent study, and it comes from carefully applying the things we have learned.
Accomplishing this will require a plan or strategy of some sort. Do we adjust our Bible reading habits? Do we step up the frequency of our prayer time? Do we begin taking notes during the Sunday sermon? Do we join a home Bible study group? Do we enlist the help of a Christian friend?
We each need to determine our own strategy for making progress in our Christian walk, but what we all have in common is our need for a plan. What’s your plan for progress this Fall?