On our last visit to Argyll we actually stopped at a sweet little beach which in the past I had always driven past. It turned out that although the beach itself is small the shellfish which live around it would appear to be very large if the shells of their deceased counterparts are to be believed.
As it is hard to see size in photographs so we put the cottage keys beside these clam shells:
while this picture shows that even Hubby’s giant hands could hardly hold this oyster shell:
Why this particular beach should have such a large amount of very large shells of all kinds I have no idea there is no industry near-by that might have unwittingly leached something out into the sea and caused this growth, neither is it one of the many areas in Argyll were there is fish farming going on, giving these shellfish an abundance of extra readily available food. Nor was it just the clams and oysters that were large, there where mussels, welks and limpets all of bigger than usual size.
I was reminded of this beach today when I was thinking about church growth. Sometimes it can be very difficult to know why any particular church does grow or another church doesn’t grow having ticked all the same mission boxes. Church growth doesn’t automatically come about by following some formula or another, it is more about faithfully being the people of God in a living community. That is what helps members of any congregation to grow as individuals, that is what becomes attractive to those who make that first tentative steps inside any church, that is the firm foundations on which a church can grow without danger of collapse. That isn’t a formula that who we are by our baptism into being part of the body of Christ. One thing I am certain of is that nutrients are needed, like any other living thing, congregations need to be fed if they are to grow. I think mission will have an uphill struggle when it is taken as being something separate from the ongoing life of a congregation, I think it falters when it is used as a sticking plaster, and I think it out-and-out fails if it is only about invitation and not about nurture, nurture of those finding faith for the first time and nurture for those who have held their faith for many years.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.