Growing Pains

December 28th, 2014 | Reflection

Growing pains. How does that two-word phrase make you feel? It makes me feel both positive and negative. I like growing. I don’t like pain.

“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”

2014 has been a year of “growing pains” for Ecclesia. What words describe our year – unexpected, unwanted, bumpy, sad, grief, relief, loss, stress, struggle, weakness, renewal, peace, maturing, etc. In Jesus words, it has been a year of “pruning” (John 15:1-12). Yes pruning hurts (pain), but Jesus promised it is meant to bring more fruit (growth). That is happening for many of us. Some of us have transitioned from carefree single, to married, to married with kids. Growing pains, right? And that is what we have been experiencing as a church family.

This year has underscored for us that Ecclesia is a community doing life together, centered around our common bond and connection to Jesus. Ecclesia is not a location or just a “cool church.” This year has pruned us, producing the fruit of clarity what ‘church’ is – relationship with Jesus and with one another.

Worship has been the weekly rhythm that reboots us back to the Lord at the center of everything, rather than me, my problems, or my preferences. He is the “true vine” (John 15:1) we are to “remain” connected to. Are you more Christ-centered than you were when 2014 began? Are we as a community more Christ-centered?

As I look at 2014, I see more fruit in our life together. We have a shared and clear mission: Helping people find their place in God’s family where we can discover and live God’s purpose together.

Leadership, staff and elders are on the same page with this mission, and we have formed teams around this mission. We are tapping more of the talent within our community to creatively figure out how to act on this mission. Elders and staff have a more clear awareness of their roles. As leaders we are working together better – more fruit from pruning.

We have a commonly embraced picture of what “formation” in Christ means – far more than believing in Jesus and being busy serving Him. Formation means becoming formed into the image of Christ. It means deepening in relationship with Him, having self and immaturity exposed and carved away to be replaced by more Christ-like attitudes, Christ-like relationships, Christ-like living, giving, serving, sacrificing, and even Christ-like suffering for others.  This is the “fruit” He brings from “pruning”.

In my own life, the Lord has used my time at Ecclesia to stretch me and bring new growth in my life. I am enriched from the time I have spent with you at Ecclesia. I am more open, caring and waiting on the Lord– less forceful or fearful. Like the apostle Paul, I am becoming more comfortable when faced with my limitations and shortcomings (2 Corinthians 12:7). Now I see my limitations as an opportunity to rely on the Lord and others more.

What about you? What growing pains (fruit) are you seeing in your life from 2014? And what do you see as fruit in Ecclesia’s life from 2014? I encourage you to take time to reflect, to write, and have conversation with others about those two questions. Do it before 2014 ends.

Thank you for remaining with and being committed to the Ecclesia community, for being part of the fruit the Lord is bringing from our pruning. Thank you for giving in so many ways – your time, your prayers, your finances. We are growing up as that Ephesians 4 body of Christ which “grows as each part does its part in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16). And thank you for allowing me to join you during this year.

You have welcomed me, cared about me, prayed for me, loved me, and voiced your concerns and questions to me.

The new year is only days away. In His faithful love, it will be a year of more fruit, and perhaps more pruning too. Stick with Jesus. Stick with what Je is doing in us as this unique, wonderful caring, and growing up body called Ecclesia.

Happy new year in Jesus,

Pastor Paul

Paul Murphy is currently the Interim Lead Pastor at Ecclesia and has served as a leader for 33 years in Christian faith-based organizations as a pastor in local churches (permanent and interim pastorates), as a non-profit executive, and as a mentor and consulting resource to Christian leaders and ministry organizations.

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