Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Leaving the Diapers Behind...So To Speak

Babies are pretty cute little critters. The are not hard to read. If they are happy, you can easily tell from the smiles and the giggling. When they are not happy, they make sure everyone knows this. These immature humans have an innocence that is refreshing to experience and watching them mature is one of the joys of life.

This is same for the church. As the lost come to know Christ, there is a great joy watching them mature. However, for many believers, they never leave the "diaper" stage of Christian life. Last night, I was reading Great Leader Great Teacher: Recovering the Biblical Vision for Leadership by Gary Bredfeldt (I will post on this book later - long story short, it is a worthwhile read so far) and came some thought provoking concepts on Christian maturity.

In some previous posts (here and here) I have mentioned that the church uses a variety of ways to measure success in the church, all of which seem to be influenced by the secular world around us. However, it seems like the main, if not only, way Scripture measures success is the maturity of believers.

Bredfeldt shared a several verses on this topic. Two verses from the prison epistles really captivated my thinking (I will make this a two or three part post as I have been informed some of my posts are a bit long). The first verse is from Colossians:

And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. Col. 1-28-29

The first thing of note in these verses is that Paul's main ministry was teaching Christ. He proclaimed Christ and only Christ (1 Cor. 1:23, 9:16; Phi. 1:18) and this is what made Paul a great leader. In fact, it is this concept which Bredfeldt's book encapsulates:
The most powerful means of leading the people of God is by teaching them the Word of God. pg. 18

Paul is first and foremost about teaching believers the one true Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.

The second thing of note in the Colossians passage is that Paul's goal was not a radical new vision for the body of Christ, nor was his goal to be more relevant to the culture around him. His goal was the maturity of the believers he was teaching. His goal was to present them "complete" or mature in Christ.

The third thing of note in this passage is Paul gave everything he had toward this goal. Paul strenuously worked, not in his own strength, but with all the strength God gave him, to bring people to maturity. Everything Paul endured (2 Cor. 11:22-33) was to bring those he ministered to into maturity for the glory of God.

As one examines Paul's life, it is all about maturity of believers. It is immature faith of the Galatians which causes them to desire to drift back to Judaism and which spurs Paul to write that scathing epistles. The church in Thessalonica' immaturity allowed them to be continually swayed in their understand of eschatology which prompted Paul to write two letters to correct them. In fact, you can see this element in each of Paul's epistles to some extent. He believed that the key to the Christian life was nothing other than maturity.

One has to wonder why many in the church do not use maturity as the measure of their effectiveness in ministry. Is it because maturity is hard to measure? Is it because maturity takes a long time and in this instant-access society we cannot wait for such things? Is it because we do not want to mature and thus we must find other things to justify what we do? This I do not know, but it is something on which every leader should dwell.

But what does biblical maturity look like? How do we recognize it when we see it? I will address this in my next post.