“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child.” (I Corinthians 13:11)
Yesterday, filling the pulpit for a pastorless church near my home, I told the congregation, “The best thing that can happen to your new pastor is to discover that the leadership of his new church is made up of mature and godly adults in the faith. He’s going to get some good work done here.”
“And the worst thing that can happen to him–something that will frighten him as badly as anything imaginable–is to learn that the leadership of the church is immature. Getting anything done is going to be slow and difficult and at great risk.”
A friend was telling me about her parents. “I had the misfortune,” she said teasingly, “of being raised by two adults.” That is, as opposed to immature parents who were still working out issues of their own identity and life-purpose. Such a child is blessed indeed.
Every church needs a healthy portion of immature members. After all, new believers start out as spiritual babies with a world of learning and growing ahead. No one is born fully grown.
What your church should never do, however–what no church should do–is to place spiritual babies in positions of leadership. Do that, and the news is all bad. The pastor will grow old before his time, the congregation will be in a constant turmoil from the bickering of these refugees from the church nursery, and the church’s outreach ministries will grind to a halt.
Never elect a spiritual baby to anything. If you must give him or her an assignment, see that they are surrounded by a team of godly and mature members who will keep the ship on course.
What spiritual immaturity looks like
A spiritual infant looks and acts a lot like human infants. They’re self-centered, cry-babies, impatient, helpless, noisy, and messy.
1) Spiritual infants are self-centered. They arrive at church thinking, “What can I get out of this?” Then, they sometimes leave saying, “I didn’t get a thing out of that today.” Church is all about them.
2) Spiritual infants are noisy. They cry a lot, particularly when they don’t think their needs are being met. The church leadership presents a plan for reaching young adults in the community and the senior adults immediately complain that the church plans to abandon them. That’s immaturity on display.
The leadership asks the church to fund a mission project and someone complains that the girls’ bathroom needs remodeling with that money.
The story of the Israelites in the wilderness is one instance of griping and complaining after another. Poor Moses had to babysit hundreds of thousands of God’s infants for a full generation. No wonder pastors admire Moses so much and identify with him so readily.
3) Spiritual infants are messy. Toddlers do not clean up after themselves. That’s someone else’s job. On Sunday night after everyone has vacated the premises, walk around the church building and you’ll know in a heartbeat whether the congregation is mature or immature.
4) Spiritual infants are impatient. The crying baby cannot be told that the milk is warming and should be ready in a few minutes. He wants what he wants and he wants it five minutes ago.
“Why did you leave that church?” “We were not having our needs met.” Ever heard that? This is the customer/provider approach to Kingdom work. The church is there to provide services which members pay for with their offerings; if the services are inferior, they withhold their money or even leave. Such is the nature of carnal devotion.
5) Spiritual infants are defined by what they cannot do. They cannot cooperate, cannot submit to others, and cannot understand deep things. They are unable to apologize and mean it, and resist sharing.
They cannot see far away. Suggest the church join the local association or send money to missions, and they respond, “Why? What does it do for us?”
6) Spiritual infants are explosive and can “go off” at anything. They were in the hospital and the pastor did not visit them, so they drop out of church. They worked hard on that project and got no recognition from the pulpit so they are ready to quit.
7) Spiritual infants are irresponsible. They’re great at expecting a lot from others and nothing from themselves. They always know who is to blame for all that’s wrong in the church.
It’s the nature of the immature to be childish. It’s the natural order of things for babies to be infantile. We’re not saying otherwise. We love babies.
Babies can love and laugh and add a great deal to any gathering. The biggest huggers in any church and the ones most likely to call out a hearty ‘amen’ to the sermon are the newer members, those “fresh in from the cold.” They add a lot to the church.
But we don’t want to keep our children as toddlers forever. They should grow.
We’re not against spiritual babies; we just say don’t turn over the church to them and that everyone goes through that developmental stage.
But to remain a baby forever is unnatural.
Growing into maturity is the natural order of things. “By this time you ought to be teachers,” the writer of Hebrews said to some unnamed disciples. “But you need to return to the first grade and start over with the basic truths of the kingdom” (Hebrews 5:12; my paraphrase).
We don’t tell our babies to grow. It’s the natural order. If we feed and nurture them, protect and care for them, they will grow.
Spiritual growth is a choice.
We grow spiritually into Christlikeness by the choices we make–whether to read the Bible and pray, to obey the Lord in a particularly difficult situation, to give our tithes when finances are tight, to share our faith when doing so might be uncomfortable, to resist temptation when its pull was so strong.
We choose to grow by making right choices. And, when we make the wrong choices we choose not to grow. We feel lazy on Sunday mornings and decide to sleep in; we are deciding not to grow. We decide to spend God’s money on ourselves rather than give it in church; we decide not to grow. We go a week without serious attention to the Word of God; we are sentencing ourselves not to grow.
To use Eugene Peterson’s phrase, spiritual growth takes place as a result of “a long obedience in the same direction.”
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).
Discovered: a human growth hormone for Christians!
Athletes get in trouble for taking HGH, artifically created chemicals designed to speed up the growth of new tissues, bones, and muscle. The football player weighed 185 pounds a year ago, but now he tops out at 265. Something is bad wrong; look for HGH in his system. This is bad and does serious injury to his longtime health.
However, there is a way for God’s children to speed up the maturity process, to grow at a much faster clip than is normally the case.
But you won’t like it.
It’s called persecution.
When believers are persecuted for the faith, when they are harassed and tormented, and some even killed, when being identified as a follower of Jesus Christ subjects one to all kinds of opposition and humiliation, the Lord’s people decide in a hurry to what extent they believe Him and believe in Him, and how important He is to them.
The faithful who persevere in difficult times grow much faster than those who live in safe societies where serving Christ costs them little or nothing. They have to.
But I wouldn’t want to volunteer for persecution. There are easier ways–not to say more survivable ways!–to grow in the Lord.
Great stuff Brother Joe!
When that new pastor does arrive, he will owe you lunch! Again, great post. Thanks for continuing to write!
Hi to the family for me,
Andy! How good to hear from you, my friend. Thank you for the comment. And I will indeed pass along your greeting. Please keep in touch.
If we look at changes that have occurred in history and people of conviction who were instrumental in causing change it’s easy to see these people as almost heroes and heroines. These individuals and groups of people are greatly encouraging to many of us to hear their stories. The easy part is looking back at those times in history. There are many problems in the culture in America today. The church seems to be greatly pressured currently to follow the culture and not hold fast to scripture. That’s probably an old story. Each generation has it’s own challenges. With all that the church is involved in to help out and problem solve I believe the worst problem and most avoided subject seems to be the abortion issue. It’s the law and has been for over 40 years. I don’t see where any one individual church can or should take on the abortion issue but I do believe the church can and should be involved in educating and leading their congregation to be participants in peaceful prayerful pro life activities. With 52 weeks in a year many churches don’t offer one Sunday to the pro life issue. I recently had a conversation with my pastor. His comment to me was “I’m pro life, you’re pro life, what’s there to talk about”? Should the church speak up for the unborn and for the mothers abused by the abortionist, or just follow the culture with continued silence?
I thank God for this massage servant of God. may I admit that the church which am pastoring has elements of immaturity. Many times have been on knees lifting church before God and even breaking the powers of darkness which I knew was the main course of a lot of irregularities in church. praise be to God that Its revealed unto me that the main course is immaturity of believers. As you say growth is natural and immaturity is unnatural, I agree with you that its not all about telling a child to grow but to to give health food, security and all that it takes for one to grow and eventually there shall be growth detected.
Am a pastor to a young Church and trusting God not only to Cary the tittle but to bring positive significant to people of God who come to our Church. I would like us to keep in touch for basic hinds . I will be so gretful if you will also respond to my comment and also conduct me through my email.
may He find us faithful when he comes to take the Church.
The whole commentary seems to center around your church. Red flag.. Inuendos about disobedience and tything -‘ .about Pastors that don’t come to the hospital when their sheep are ill? I would call that Pastor a hireling. If you recognize people for their deeds, which should be done in secret, from “the pulpit”, your distributing badges, What about the woman who gavevone mite? All of this sounds like it revolves around control of people and not faith, — certainly the Holy Spirit.. Manipulating people out of their money by laying guilt on them. Dogs jumping through hoops get a bisquits. You sound like dod whisperer. There is not biblical word here.. Religion, tells people to “do the right thing” that’s moralism. You drmote anyone who wont tythe, attend church, clean up afterwords — or be at your beckon call a BABY. This is the thing that made Jesus Woe. Your growing religious minds, not disciples. John 13:35. It looks good outwardly but the wightier things, ??? Obedience isn’t obedience to your version… Maybe they do not come because their busy loving others not reaching into their pockets because your ststem relies on it. A grim picture of a church. You want loyalty without what God wants.. HE WANTS BRANCES. It is infuriating how your underlining criticism points to people leaving because they didn’t get what they wanted. Sounds like youcarent getting what you want. Do you want someone to feel like you know and care about them as they sit there in a hospital bed? Estteming others seems to have found a place where the bucks stops. Is it you Pastor. Your not accountable. That’s a big problem sir.. “A LAMB FALLS INTO A PIT ON THE SABBATH” So your too busy? The new people they praise God and shout amen? Right? — until they read this blog that clearly states that the ones who have been there no it doesn’t please a man, that man being you. We are set from the law, and Wyatt Earps come out of the woodwork . . You more than likley are the reason many people do not step in Churches today. You preach rote. Gods looking for mercy not sacrafice. Your petty segragation is as obvious as the rest the way you manipulate from the pulpit. Yuk! Poopy diapers is the least of your problems. “Pastor” I am a man of God. I live for Jesus. I don’t go surfing the web to find restbin the unrighteousness of any man who claims to be in the five fold ministry. No, I do not care to here your loyal servants retort in your defense. I defend the Gospel. We all must rightly divide it. Or, we will be divided. .I will pray for you Pastor. God bless you.. “If I give my money to the poor, and my body to be burned and do not have AGAPE, it is all for not” “If we believe in Christ for only the things of this world, we are men most miserable” “The good shepard leaves the ninety nine (sitting in the pulpits every Sunday) and goes after the one” Instead of criticizing them from the high seat in your head, esteem them, love them, remember no wrongs, be their friends, in essence you a physician after the Prototype who is Jesus. You are a wise leader after the wisest of all Jesus. Who was friends of disciples because they knew him….was it Jesus? No, he loved them because they followed him wanting to know. He sent helper. That’s how clueless they were. Pastor, if the helper is not alive in you — in truth and Spirit, then how will the babies recognize HIS voice in you. It is not what goes into a mans mouth that defiles him… it is what comes out of it. This scripture is about preaching more than anything. Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and long suffering.. They rejoice after the one. The Heavens.. We have to be the “one” to know how important “one” is. Jesus gives us a good name, do we deserve it? No, do we earn it? Certainly not. Can you crack a wip and produce anything but slaves.. No..How many people leave your church as opposed to how many come new? Their not leaving the church. They are leaving you. Why? Lord has spoken to me here. Divide it rightly. Teach them how to enter His rest. Jesus is our Sabbath. Then they will come to worship in Spirit in truth without these idiologies you weave intp the sheep. Then the Spirit will lead in charity, not by device. Trust God, we have a new and better high priest.. An easy yoke.
True the church I attend I was supprised to see two teenagers as intercessors and now and they are delivered from demons and start screaming it just amaizes me. While the Apostle likes talking about giving to the church and tithings. I’m just going there for now but I realised once I able to finance my trip to other churches I will. The church is full of spiritual babies and I will just wait in the background and see what happens but am defanately loosing heart to this church and I know there are much better churches out there.