Growing in Christ

We live in a results-driven culture that is based on counting and measuring. That is always the way of the Law. We consider someone successful based upon the numbers, whether considering sports or business. When it comes to considering the Church, we often speak about growth. While the Acts of the Apostles regularly provides numerical reports of the growth of the Church, the Scriptures are full of references to other forms of growth as well. Growth in faith and sanctification are much more difficult to measure numerically.

As we approach the Trinity season and the focus on growth, it is good for us to consider how God gives growth. This happens through the connection with Christ, the true vine. Only as we are connected with Jesus and growing as the Holy Spirit works through Word and Sacrament do we grow in faith, hope, and love. As many congregations lament the lack of numerical growth, the starting place for church leaders in serving their congregations is actually by growing through Christ and His Word. While I pray that our congregations grow numerically, I also pray that God would grant church leaders who are growing in the faith and bearing fruits of faith in their daily lives.

St. Paul reminds us that regardless of who plants or waters, it is always God who gives the growth. Churches grow as the Gospel is preached and the sacraments are administered. Churches are blessed by faithful leaders who are growing in faith and producing fruits that flow from the Spirit’s working. Such growth cannot be measured on a balance sheet, but is demonstrated as the people of God serve one another in love. We rejoice each time a child is baptized and someone new is received into membership. Such growth is given by God. However, it is good for us to pray for the growth in faith and sanctification as the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives as well. May God grant such growth in every one of our congregations.

Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan was born in Birmingham, Ala., and graduated from Concordia, Seward, Neb., in 1992. He holds both a Master of Divinity Degree (1996) and Doctorate of Ministry (2011) from Concordia Seminary. Hagan served as Senior Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran in Concordia, Mo. (2002-2015) and was previously an Associate Pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Evansville, Ind. (1996-2002). He has been President of The Missouri District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod since June 2015. Hagan also served as Interim Director, LCMS Rural and Small Town Mission (2011-12), on numerous District Boards both in Missouri and Indiana, and during multiple Synodical Conventions as a delegate and on Floor Committees. He is married to Jill and they have two children.