Growth by Subtraction

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By Assisstant Superindentent Monty Sears
June 1, 2019
After 30 years in pastoral ministry, I truly believe life and leadership has seasons. I’ve experienced wonderful seasons of personal and professional growth, and a few seasons that from the outside looking in, were painful.
It was in the less desirable seasons that I learned more about God’s grace and mercy than in the wonderful seasons. I’d like to share a concept with you, “growth through subtraction”, that I pray will enable you to see the good, and see how God works in seasons that are often painful.
Let’s look at the life and ministry of Gideon. When Gideon initially rallied the Israelite troops, 32,000 men showed up.
But God said: “That’s too many. Tell all those who are afraid to go home.” That day 22,000 men left.
But God wasn’t finished subtracting. Another divine hoop the soldiers had to jump through was presented and 9,700 more men left. So Gideon, who said “yes” to the leadership call on his life, and also to the challenge to do something great for God; lost a substantial number of the original group who started with him.
What’s the good news? With 300 men and God’s help, this unlikely general routed the Midianites, and Israel was set free.
God’s equation often is “growth by subtraction”.
In John 15:1-5 Jesus tells us an important truth, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He
prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have
spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it
abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the
branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do
He is the Vine and we are the branches. He gave us a picture of what our relationship with Him
looks like. He said: “Every branch that does bear fruit, He (our Heavenly Father) prunes so that
it will be even more fruitful.” This is His way of increasing productivity “growth by subtraction”.
How you respond when being pruned is of the utmost importance.
How do you love when being pruned? How do you pray when being pruned?
How do you forgive when being pruned? How do you trust God when being pruned? Our greatest sermons are preached during times of pruning.
What’s so good about pruning?
Pruning promotes more growth.
The sworn enemy of your future success is today’s success in your life in terms of systems, mindsets,
packaging, and methods.
Often, what got us here, will not get us to where God intends for us to be.
Some things that worked when we were 100 in attendance won’t work now that we have over 200.
For a church to grow to the next level, pruning is almost always inevitable.
Sometimes pruning takes the form of ending longstanding programs or events.
Sometimes pruning manifests by people leaving our lives and our church.
For those who leave and allow me a chance to respond to them, I share these words, “Leave like you’re
coming back”. The grass is very seldom greener down the street.
Next, pruning will keep us more focused.
A common mistake some ambitious leaders make is when they take on too many initiatives at once.
At CFC we fight for simplicity and a calendar with margin.
Finally, pruning keeps us humble.
Pride will devour your call.
I’ve learned that most insecure people are prideful people. It is pruning that reminds us that God is in charge. And might I add that He is the Master Gardener.
When subtraction happens, it often puzzles and pains us . . . but our Heavenly Father knows exactly what He’s doing.
Here’s the good news - Pruning often precedes progress and growth often starts with
Stay the course, keep your chin up, and plow forward. Chances are high you’ll experience
unprecedented growth in Jesus’ name.