Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Instantaneous Maturity?

How fast do Christians grow? How do they grow?

These are related questions. If they grow quickly, instantaneously, in spurts, then our focus as pastors and churches should be on the special events, revivals, special conferences, and the like. But if Christians grow regularly, steadily, incrementally, over time, then our focus needs to be on the weekly worship service, the weekly sermon, the weekly Bible study, the weekly prayer meeting, the regular calling or one-on-one interaction, and the like.

Both types of growth stimulants are important, but which type should get our focus?

Even more significant in answering these two questions are the implications for the individual Christian. Should his focus be on the annual spiritual conference, or the weekly worship service and the weekly Bible study, or the daily time in the Word and prayer?

In terms of rate, spiritual growth seems to be similar to physical growth. Children grow gradually so that those who don’t see kids on a regular basis are more quickly to recognize growth than, say, their parents, who are with them every day. Are there growth spurts? Of course. A boy can grow gradually from Day One, and then all of a sudden grow eight inches during his freshman year of high school.

In the same way, believers grow gradually so that their growth is not immediately obvious to those around them. But there also occurs the occasional growth spurt, where God opens eyes, or special consecration is made, etc., and “eight inches” of spiritual height is quickly attained.

To me, then, two implications follow:

The pastor must take seriously the regular duties that at times may seem monotonous or pointless. If they seem monotonous, they are not, however, pointless. Bless my wife, who week after week stocks our fridge, freezer, and pantry, and who day after day prepares meals for us to eat. No doubt it seems monotonous to her, but it is not pointless. How we are nourished because of her daily hours logged in the kitchen!  Here then is a word for me at this time as I struggle to decide on the next series to begin with my Wednesday night Adult Bible study.

The second implication is that Christians who do not spend daily time with the Lord do not mature as they should; they stunt their own growth by their failure to feed themselves regularly. After all, man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4). Christ is the vine and we are the branches. If we remain in him and he in us, we will bear much fruit (i.e., mature); but apart from him we can do nothing (Jn15:5).

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