Few things get our attention as much as speed.

We want the fastest computers, the fastest routes to work, the fastest ways to get rich, the fastest....well, everything.

This is why the fastest growing churches often get attention, but the slow and steady often do not.

Or immediate healings through prayer, as opposed to slower healings through the hands of a doctor with the spiritual gift of healing through medicine.

Or the “Saul” to “Paul” conversion stories, as opposed to those who take months to ask questions and explore, moving gradually to faith.

The point is that we often equate the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit with speed, rather than effect.

A pastor in my city that I respect greatly has been faithfully at the helm for three or more decades.  He has been used to build a great church.    

He once told me that his church has never grown more than about a hundred in average attendance a year.  No big bursts, no break-out seasons, just a steady growth of about a hundred more people, year after year.

But after thirty or more years, he now pastors a multi-site church with well over 3,000 in average attendance.

I believe he should be honored.  I believe that is a church that leaders and planters from around the world should study.  I believe that is a church marked by praiseworthy growth from the Holy Spirit and faithful attenders.

But it’s never been “fast” enough to get attention, and thus be seen as a great work of God.

I once read a story about an eastern king who asked one of his counselors to give him a sign of the wonderful, miraculous works of God.

So the counselor told the king to plant four acorns.

The king did, but then fell asleep for eighty years.

When he awoke, he was amazed that the four acorns he had planted had (to him) instantaneously become four fully-grown trees.  He thought a miracle had occurred, because to him, it had only seemed like a moment.

Then the counselor told the king that, in truth, eighty years had gone by.

Then the king looked down and saw that he had grown old and that his clothes were in rags.  He said, "Then there is no miracle here."

But then the counselor said, "That is where you are wrong.  Whether accomplished in a moment or in eighty years, it is all God's work.  The miracle is not in the speed of it's happening, but in the happening itself."

Perhaps that’s what we should be looking for.  Not speed alone,

…but the larger miracle of the happening itself.

James Emery White

 

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.