This past week I read a great quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes: Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. That went into my file on "Challenging Thoughts" because it's one I plan to revisit from time to time. How does one grow as a human being, as a spouse, as a Christian leader, as a business person? Growth comes through the discovery of new ideas and finding ways to apply those ideas to one's life.
Charles "Tremendous" Jones is famous for saying, "Five years from now you will be pretty much the same as you are today except for two things: the books you read and the people you get close to." I believe he is absolutely correct because these two things have the capacity to stretch your thinking as few other things in life. I worry about people who tell me they never read. I worry even more when I see what some people are reading! As I visit with pastors I am often disappointed in the books they have in their libraries. I am disappointed in both the quantity and the quality of their books and wonder what is helping them grow.
Jones also includes one's friends and associates as the other influence that helps us grow. Last week I heard a podcast that included an interview with John Maxwell who said that if you are at the top of your class, you need to go to another class. If you're already at the top you can't grow any more. Get in an environment where you will be challenged and stretched. Associate with people who have gone further than you have, who have accomplished more than you have, and who are smarter that you are. You will learn from such people, and you will grow as a leader.
About an hour from where I live is a megachurch, Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. It is a good church that has done excellent ministry in that community. When I was the bivocational pastor of a small, country church I would attend their quarterly pastor lunches they held for area pastors. It was a time to eat lunch while listening to some of the leaders of that church share some of the needs of the community before we joined together in prayer. Not only did I go to every one my schedule allowed, I usually took one of our lay leaders with me. I wanted to expose them to ministry at a different level than what our church could offer. I wasn't intimidated by that church nor was I jealous of them. Quite frankly, I do not believe I have the leadership gifts that could lead a church like that. But, I wanted to make sure that I, and our lay leaders, were exposed to new ways of doing ministry and new ways of thinking. I wanted us to be stretched so we could grow in our leadership abilities and lead our church in new ministries that would impact others.
One of the podcasts I listen to when driving is by a philosopher-apologist who addresses some of the challenges to the Christian faith from his training. I'll be honest: There are broadcasts I don't understand half of what he's saying! I can't even spell some of the words he uses much less know what they mean, but as I continue to listen to him I am starting to better understand his arguments. I appreciate knowing we have people on our side who are not afraid to debate some of the new atheists who have developed such a following today especially since he wins most of those debates. Listening to him exposes me to a depth of thinking that stretches me and helps me grow.
What are you reading that helps you think great thoughts? Who are you spending time with that stretches you and helps your personal and professional growth? As you look back over the past year, in what ways have you grown, and what areas do you need to work on? As we prepare to begin a new year, what specifically will you do to grow as a person, as a Christian leader, as a spouse?