The Church Pastoring & Leadership

A Growth We Can’t Sustain

Joanna Cyrus-David

The Cost of Attention

I go to Twitter before I watch the news. 

There, I catch a glimpse of what is on the minds of my fellow human beings–what has succeeded in grabbing our collective attention (at least until the next trend). 

Attention is powerful. It is a valuable and much sought-after commodity. Many of us want attention, but we can’t afford to pay attention because its demands outstrip our supply. Considering this, it makes sense that so many of us check to see what has other people’s attention and quickly sell our attention there as well. We reason that if so many other people are giving their best resource to a cause, it must be worthy of garnering our attention, too. 

In the American church, particularly within Evangelicalism, there continues to be an emphasis on marketing, demand, and “clout.” Many of us have bought into the idea that anything growing fast is the Chemical X we need to rapidly grow the Kingdom (or, perhaps, just our congregation). Rapid growth is attractive, but it can become deadly if we feed it with our attention without judging its worthiness first. Rapid growth can hide unhealthy leaders, protect abusers, and starve other parts of the Body of Christ that are in need of nourishment.

Not all rapid growth is good growth.

As a medical school student, I’ve been learning about cancer. I’ve studied its causes and growth process. In my studies, I learned that something can go wrong in our body and cause one cell to divide rapidly, stealing resources needed for the health of other cells. This can result in rapid weight loss and fatigue before we realize what’s happening, the malignant cells robbing our bodies of valuable resources.  

Rapid growth can be bad for our natural bodies and can also be hazardous to our spiritual health. When churches and ministries grow too fast, it can be easy for us to dismiss serious problems and write them off as growing pains. 

A pastor might speak eloquently, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore it when there are multiple abuse allegations against them. 

A leader might have a dynamic stage presence, but that doesn’t mean we ignore how they treat others when they aren’t standing on a platform. 

A church might be fun and trendy, but we should be concerned if there is no one providing its leaders with oversight, spiritual development, and accountability. 

A Growth We Can’t Sustain

If we aren’t careful, we could end up giving the precious resource of our attention to unhealthy ministries and leaders, leaving ourselves vulnerable to church hurt. 

Flashy aesthetics, dynamic worship, and mass appeal can lead to rapid growth, but if its foundations are unhealthy, it becomes a growth that we can’t sustain. If we continue to feed our spiritual attention with viral pastors, candy-coated religion, and shallow worship, we run the risk of starving the rest of our Body–and she certainly keeps the score.