“Hypertrophy” refers to the enlargement of organs or tissues due to the increase in the size of its cells. This phenomenon is undesirable in certain contexts (e.g. hypertrophic cardiomyopathy—the condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick and obstructs the pumping of blood), but it is an important concept in the case of general muscle growth. Our body repairs/replaces damaged muscle fibers by fusing fibers together to form new ones. This process increases the number of fibers as well as their size, therefore achieving what we would call muscular hypertrophy or muscle growth.
Many people mistakenly place the point at which their muscles “grow” in the gym. However, the process of building muscle, which leads to growth, does not take place in the gym. The gym is a catalyst that begins the process by breaking down the muscle fibers. The growth happens after the gym. You can lift heavy things and run on the treadmill all you want. However, if you do not realize that the things that take place outside of the gym—like a healthy diet and proper rest—make up most of the process of muscular growth, then you will never grow to your full potential.
What does this mean in the context of Christianity? We often find ourselves treating Sunday mornings as our “gym,” forgetting that Sunday mornings are just a tiny portion of our lives. For us to achieve “spiritual hypertrophy,” we cannot just bet everything on Sunday mornings. As important as they are, most of the growth inevitably takes place outside the walls of our church building. Are you fueling yourself with spiritual nutrition outside the context of a corporate worship or class (Ps. 1:2)? Are you challenging yourself throughout the week with intention to develop further in maturity (Heb. 6:1)? Are you committed to a lifestyle of sacrifices and self-control that is necessary for the growth that God expects from you (2 Tim. 2:4-6)?
Don’t assume that “going to the gym” a couple of hours a week is enough to result in a significant spiritual growth! Let us make the commitment now—to work on our spiritual fitness both inside and outside the church building. Christianity that God intends for us is so much more.