“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke2:52) ESV
Scriptures teach clearly that Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally. This in itself is a mandate for all Christ-followers, and especially pastors and leaders, to not only aspire to growth, but also strive to make it happen.
In our busy schedules, we often cram our days with excessive activity in our endeavors to serve others. But are we intentional about planning our own personal growth? Here are a few steps to guide us as we seek to grow in ways that honor Christ.
Start with Prayer
In Psalm 139, David expressed one of the greatest prayers that pastors and leaders need to lift up to God at all times:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!”
Assess Your Situation
Growth starts with genuine self-evaluation. Ask yourself probing questions like:
How am I doing in all areas of my life?
How much have I grown in the past year in each area?
What are some tangible results of growth in my life that I can point to?
It is also important to seek input from other people close to you who can help to provide a clearer picture of your reality. Always invite the Spirit to filter your thoughts so that truth prevails in your self-evaluation.
Identify Main Areas of Growth
Celebrate the progress you have measured in the areas of your life where you have grown. It is common to allow our shortcomings to blur out the positive aspects of our lives. Count your blessings. Give thanks. Rejoice and be glad!
Let the joy of the growth celebrated be the primer for identifying other aspects of your life in which you need to grow. Be careful not to overwhelm yourself with anxiety. Choose one or two main areas to focus on at a time. Remember, God will finish the good work He has started in you. But you are still a work in progress.
Establish Goals and Actions
In order to grow, there needs to be an intentional plan, which includes tangible goals and specific action steps. Your plan may involve things like:
reading books on a specific topic
listening to podcasts
reading blogs from respected leaders
seeking professional counseling
taking a sabbatical
starting a diet and exercising
making the weekly Sabbath a priority
making new friends
traveling with your family
incremental times of prayer and fasting
acquiring a new skill
finding a mentor
joining or creating a group of peers for fellowship, learning, prayer and encouragement
going on a retreat with your spouse
Whatever you choose, just make sure to be intentional about taking the necessary steps towards the growth results you want to achieve.
Don’t Do It Alone
One of the greatest truths we tend to forget is that we are part of God’s body. It is foolish to think that growth (or life, healing, change, fulfillment, etc.) can and should happen outside of the body.
Make it a priority to learn from other people, even those who are different than you. Learn to listen more and speak less. Take the initiative to ask questions to peers facing the same challenges as you. Be sensitive to the fact that God has placed people in your life, starting with your spouse, as part of His divine plan. And trust in Him to be the Source of growth in your life, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
Joe Souza serves as the pastoral leadership development coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.