Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Grow up!

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Ephesians 4:15-16

A big part of Christian maturity is meant to take place as a corporate experience. Call it group growth. Christians are meant to grow and learn in a dynamic setting of mutual ministry. The church grows like Christ together. We are meant to know this experience as the means to real maturity.

So much teaching on spiritual growth today focuses on the individual. And ultimately that is important, but individuals cannot truly mature in faith outside the culture and context of the local church. Paul gives clear teaching that is worth examining in this passage.

First and foremost, the church provides the context, meaning, and culture for growth. This is bound up in the phrase "speaking the truth in love". For me to grow, I must be regularly shown God's truth from other Christians. And interaction with the teaching (the "speaking") of God's truth through the church is absolutely essential. In a traditional church setting this might begin on Sunday in a service. It should not end there. Other Christians in relationship should speak the truth to me so that I may grow.

The emotional nurturing soil of Christian growth is love. We grow in the love of the Lord and of other believers. We grow to love our world. And the truth is taught to us in love. The two must go together to avoid the extremes of stale doctrine or meaningless emotionalism.

The direction that we grow is Christlike. Together Christians grow into or toward "the head" of the Church. And that mutual direction brings unity, purpose, and a commonality that cannot be equaled. Ultimately, we begin to see Jesus in each other this way.

We grow together and build each other. It is not about me growing as a separate organism. I think that is how we tend to see Christian growth. We have it all self-focused. We could not be more misguided. Instead, Christian growth is about building the body. It is about me serving others and helping them grow. It is about the church growing together, not just meeting together on a Sunday. We need each other. We are one body and I am just one part of that greater experience. Growth is about the church building itself up in love. When Christians get this and live it out, the world is changed, not one Christian at a time, but one church at a time!

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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