I just finished an article in the Christian Research Journal by Thomas E. Bergler who asserts that churches need to put spiritual maturity high on their agenda, pointing what we say, what we model and how we lead toward helping Christians attain spiritual maturity. This post’s content is inspired by Dr. Bergler’s article with much of the content coming from there. This post contains some tough teaching. Hang on and hang in there! There is hope at the end so read it all!
So, So True
The observation by Dr. Bergler that many people in our churches are “juvenilized Christians” (i.e, self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually shallow) hit home for me. I’ve experienced first hand this kind of thinking and feeling from many, many people. And, I’m not talking about “young” or “new” Christians who just are beginning their spiritual journeys and are expected to be immature in their faith and walk with God; I’m talking about people who have had ample opportunity, ample time and ample experience at least to be maturing, if not yet mature, in their faith. Maybe that’s you; maybe not. It’s probably more of you than would care to admit it. I suspect after you read the rest of this post, you’ll have a better idea of whether you are maturing or not.
Spiritual Maturity is Desirable and Expected
Hebrews 5:11-6:1 – “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity ….”
Spiritual maturity is expected because it means becoming more and more like Christ. That’s what being a Christian means: “little Christ.” Over time, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we should be increasing our knowledge of the Lord as well as our “likeness” of Him. We should be developing more fully the fruits of the spirit as outlined in Galatians 5:22-26. We should become like our teacher, Jesus Christ (Luke 6:40).
Here are some of the areas/ways in which we should be attaining spiritual maturity:
Intellectually — A MATURE Christian knows the basics of the faith and is able to communicate them to another. A MATURE Christian recognizes false teaching and is not swayed by such. A MATURE Christian is routinely and regularly expanding their knowledge of who God is, what His Word says and what the Word means for all of us. An IMMATURE Christian doesn’t think it really matters what you believe as long as you earnestly believe it. They don’t seek to dig deeper into the Word and are satisfied with what they think they already know. They often say things like: “I don’t like to read” or “I don’t have time to study the Bible” or “I’m not comfortable in groups.”
Church commitment — A MATURE Christian recognizes the importance of the corporate church body as a place to connect with one another, and, more importantly, care for each other. (Ephesians 4:7-16). An IMMATURE Christian feels that a church home, and in particular regular corporate worship attendance, is an option if you need it or like it. There is little value placed on commitment to a local church body beyond the individual feeling of whether it “does anything for me and my life.” Their attitude is often “What has the church done for me lately” rather than “What have I done for the church lately.”
Serving and Kingdom growth — A MATURE Christian lives for others, serves others and joins others in serving others, all for the benefit of showing God’s love and introducing Him to other people. They are “on mission” for God before themselves. (Matthew 28:16-20). They are sacrificial with their time and money. However, IMMATURE Christians tend to see service as something that can be done to help the community at large, if and only if, they have the time, energy, money or interest to help a particular person or group of people. They are happy to help someone as long as it fits in their schedule and makes them feel good. They often point to one “community service project” event in the last year or a once-every-few-weeks service in the church as being “more than enough” to help the Kingdom.
Emotionally — A MATURE Christian is in control of their feelings rather than allowing their feelings to control them. They do not feel sorry for themselves and they reject feelings of jealousy and anger towards others who are in different places economically, socially or physically. They recognize that both suffering and comfort are regular parts of the Christian life. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7; 4:7-18). An IMMATURE Christian believes that negative emotions, experiences and circumstances are unfair, unique to them, and that they have a “right” not to have them. They often believe that one of the benefits of being “on God’s side” should be that life should be care-free, struggle-free and happy-me. They often “get mad at God” because He’s not doing what they think He should be doing in their life, or, at least He’s not doing it quickly enough.
This is just an exemplary list, but it should get us all thinking. Even while writing this, I had to stop and really, really think about myself and my own spiritual journey. It was scary. I have a long way to go. Too many of the “immature” descriptions described me. I didn’t like that and I don’t want that for me, for my family or for my church! So, I had to ask myself these questions:
Am I allowing God to mature me?
Am I satisfied with spiritual milk rather than seeking deeper things of God?
Will I do anything about where I am and where I need to be?
I hope that you ask yourselves these questions too. And, that you answer them!