The Myth of Endless Growth

I’ve always been told that if a business or church isn’t growing, something must be terribly wrong. After all, healthy things always multiply and grow.

But frankly, that’s hogwash. It’s based on idealistic and wishful thinking. It’s a leadership urban legend. And a dangerous one at that.

Nothing in nature supports the goofy idea that healthy things always multiply and grow. In fact, in the natural order of God’s creation, it’s quite the opposite. The higher up the food chain, the shorter the period of multiplication. The same goes for growth. Living things grow to a size predetermined by DNA and environment. Then they spend all of their energy sustaining life at the size God ordained.

Some are ants. Some are elephants. Most are somewhere in between. But once any living thing reaches its prescribed size, it stops growing. It’s not a matter of health. It’s a matter of God’s design.

What makes the myth of endless multiplication and growth so dangerous when applied to organizations is what it does to the leaders and ministries who buy into it.

  • First, it puffs up the elephants. Have you noticed that the primary proponents of this myth are always theorists (those who love to describe the ideal without ever having to make it happen) or those of us who already have an elephant-sized ministry?
  • Second, it emotionally crushes the ants (and pretty much anyone who fails to measure up to the elephants). The result is a plethora of pastors and ministry leaders who feel guilty and inadequate for not growing beyond their gifting, spiritual DNA, and the fertility of the harvest field they serve in.
  • Third, it tempts those who face a slowing growth rate (or no growth) to take organizational steroids. Instead of accepting our God-ordained size and faithfully taking care of what we have, we panic and chase after the latest gimmicks and programs in the mistaken belief that bigger always means healthier. But as we all know, while steroids can make us bigger and stronger, they’ll never make us healthier.

So what do you think? How has the myth of endless multiplication and growth as the natural order of things impacted the way you lead, evaluate your success, and plan for the future?