“Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation….” (I Peter 2:2).
The bane of the church today is immaturity.
A Sunday School class is asked to relocate so a growing class can have a larger room and it sets off a firestorm of belly-aching.
A longtime church leader does not get the recognition he feels is his entitlement and his family threatens to leave the church.
The pastor teaches a rich lesson from Romans or Hebrews and the congregation isn’t capable of understanding it. The sermons they prefer include “four reasons to be saved today” and “the sin which God hates above all others.”
The preacher brings a message on the tithe and church members criticize him for emphasizing money. At the monthly business meeting, they gripe because the church’s income is lagging.
The church hears a missionary’s report on a great harvest of souls in Singapore and balks at being asked to receive an offering on its behalf.
The pastor is asked by an influential group in the church to invite a flashy, carnal evangelist whose message is God-wants-you-to-prosper. When he hesitates, they grow critical and threaten to have him fired.
When the city leaders enact a policy that upsets the church, the congregation’s main response is to write hostile letters and stage a protest. Prayer and acts of love never enter their mind.
When the church does something of a truly generous nature, the congregation insists they they must get recognition for their largesse. When they see that other churches have done less than they did, they become inflated with pride.
A mature church is a wonder to behold.
When the church gives generously, that only encourages the congregation to try to do more.
When the pastor announces a series of sermons on Romans or Hebrews or Revelation, the members start studying up in order to be ready to make the most of this opportunity.
When the city fathers do something detrimental to the welfare of the community in their eyes, the church leadership calls the congregation to prayer for wisdom in how to respond. They do nothing rash, but act in love.
When the lay leadership feels the pastor’s sermons are inadequate, a couple of the godliest members talk to him privately, looking for ways to encourage and bless him. If necessary, they encourage him to take time to rest and they see that money is provided for continuing education.
When a group in the church grows upset over some grievance, their wise leaders respond promptly. They hear them out, call everyone to prayer, and act wisely.
When such a church finds itself without a pastor, they go into a season of prayer, asking the Father to direct their steps. As He leads, they select the wisest and godliest to form a search committee for the next pastor. They undergird them in prayer and wait patiently, even if the search runs into disappointments and takes longer than expected.
Where would one go about finding such a mature church?
Answer: stay right where you are, in your present church, and encourage everyone to keep growing.
In no time at all, you’ll find yourself belonging to a stable, mature fellowship of believers.
You will know them by their love. And their steadiness.
The essense of spiritual growth is FAITH. Faith is confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no maturity without that strong confidence.
I. POSSESS FAITH: How to know it.
“Now, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Initially, that’s the process. An unsaved person wanting to have faith in Christ can do no better than getting into Scripture, reading and meditating on its insights and revelations. In time, God will give him faith.
II. EXPRESS FAITH: How to show it.
“When Jesus saw their faith….” (Mark 2:5). He always sees our faith. It’s never invisible to Him.
To the Lord, faith is something we do. It’s never simply something we profess, but something we express. We demonstrate our confidence in Him by our actions.
To the fearful disciples in the storm-tossed boat, Jesus said, “Why did you fear? Where is your faith?” (Mark 4:40).
Your baptism expresses faith in Jesus. Your witness to a neighbor does. Your offering in that envelope expresses your faith. The way you turned off the television and went in the other room to read your Bible was a wonderful expression of your faith. The way you got up this morning and even though you felt awful, still got dressed and came on to church, expressed faith in Jesus.
III. STRESS FAITH: How to grow it.
When you want to build a muscle, you put stress on it. When God wants to build His children, He stresses us.
In the gym, stress is called ‘resistance.’ It’s easy to lift a bar with no weights attached to it. But what’s the point? In order to build muscles, you attach weights, small ones at first and gradually adding more.
In the Christian life, God will stress you in order to grow you. Here are some of the weights He will apply in order to grow you…
A difficult person in your life.
It’s your spouse or your mother-in-law or your son-in-law or your boss or a next-door neighbor. They rub you the wrong way, doubt everything you say, and make constant demands on you. Will you still be faithful?
A dull time in your church.
People are unhappy or demanding or unresponsive. Attendance is flat, the sermons are boring, and nothing is happening. Will you still be faithful?
A demanding assignment.
The Lord asks you to do more than you think yourself able. He loves to do that, incidentally. He’ll ask you to teach a class or speak in church or witness to that man–and you panic at the thought of doing so. Get used to it. This is how He operates, friend.
Everyone goes through these times. It’s part of the process of growing up.
The question is whether we will remain faithful–what the old folks on the farm called “stay in the traces”–and continue serving God. If you will, you are well on your way to maturity and spiritual growth.
How to tell when you are growing spiritually and possibly becoming mature in the Lord.
1) You love the Lord most of all, and love His people a close second.
2) Your daily Bible reading and prayer are not subject to whim; you practice this no matter where you are or how you are feelings.
3) When someone attacks you, you’re able to laugh it off. Few things bother you the way they once would have.
4) When you hear of someone getting upset with the pastor or another member, your first instinct is to pray for them. Your second is to seek them out and see if you can help.
5) You rarely find yourself being tempted by the worldly things that used to entice you. These days, your biggest problem are hidden character flaws which only you know about.
6) The pastor and leadership propose a program in church and you find yourself excited to belong to such a wonderful, active congregation. You love your leaders.
7) Someone compliments you on being Christlike and you blush. “Not me,” you think. “I’m a pitiful example of a disciple of the wonderful Savior.”
Yep. You’re doing just fine. The church is blessed to have one like you among its members.