“In Celebration of Children,” would be a great book title for the Christian library. God’s love and focus on children is paramount to the Christian faith. Jesus never refused them and taught that all have to be like them to enter His kingdom. The innocence, joy, and ability to forgive, that most children possess, are high tide-marks for discipleship. Too many believers are not innocent, have no joy, and hold grudges against one another. That is opposite to the teachings of Christ and is at the core of Christian failure. The lack of child-like attitudes cannot be overstated, but there is an equal and opposing dilemma in the church. The problem I speak of is rampant immaturity. If someone acts childish at age 4 they are cute, but if they function like that when they are 25 or 40, then they have a disability. There is no shortage of scripture verses that warn against immaturity. Maturity failure results in too many spiritual war casualties, disloyalty among brethren, selfish ambitions running amuck, a proliferation of false doctrines, inadequate spiritual strength, and insufficient responsibility. Advancing God’s kingdom and building a strong church requires government, leadership, and a well-trained army. We must be childlike in heart and mature in mind and action at the same time. We need a maturity reformation.
A Biblical Foundation for Maturity
Before concluding this article, I will give some basic guidelines for developing maturity. It is important, however, that we first lay a foundation for maturity in the scriptures so that folks will not push aside this teaching by calling it old-school or stiff-shirted.
The Bible says, “The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.” Eph. 4:11-14 NRSV
Infants are egocentric; they focus on themselves. They look for attention and have little patience when their needs are not met. If left unchecked, this produces selfishness. This immaturity is also in the church. The focus on individual gratification in the church is a tyranny that opposes the building of Christ’s body. Many unknowingly hinder the work of God’s kingdom because of immaturity.
A mature move of God begins with a focus on putting Him first. The Lord promises that those who seek His kingdom first will be taken care of (see Mt. 6:33). Throughout scripture we are warned not to build our own homes by abandoning His. In the end, seeking a selfish existence leads to poverty and ruin (see Haggai 1:4,9). In the 60’s and 70’s, during the Jesus people revolution, the theme song around the world was, “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God.” The movement had a great beginning, but it went off course as the focus shifted to serving leadership first and to get-rich-quick diversions. To this day, we have not recovered from these distractions. Instead, for decades, we have wandered down the lazy path of shallow teaching and entertainment-based church gatherings. A new generation must mature.
A Milk Diet
We have encouraged a milk diet instead of one with solid food. This has allowed the errors addressed by Hebrews and 1Corinthians to become common-place. Here is what they say.
“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.” Heb. 5:12-14, 6:1
“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” 1Cor. 3:1-2
A milk diet is great for beginners but inappropriate for veterans. It is for those who mind their own things and not Christ’s. Here are some basic guidelines that will help us on the road to maturity and help us train others to focus on building the kingdom of God.
Steps Toward Maturity
There are many things that the word of God teaches to help us grow into mature believers. In fact, we can never stop growing if we aim to be Christ-like. Here are 7 points that will help the Church mature: 1. Accepting God’s 5-fold government, 2. Personal Bible accountability, 3. Deeper teaching for children, 4. Embracing sacrificial service, 5. Keeping essential traditions. 6. A secret prayer life, 7. Loving the fear of God. Let’s look at these.
1. Accepting God’s 5 Fold Government
Apostles and the 5 fold ministries must be restored. They are God’s government on the earth and without them we do not have God’s government. These ministry leaders must be genuine with Biblical attitudes and godly agendas. They must not be self-promoting. The body of Christ will never rise to maturity without their leadership.
2. Personal Bible Accountability
Too many have handed over their Bible study efforts to the expertise of so called professional ministers. Disciples must do their due diligence and become personally accountable once again. The high ground of sincere Bible study must be recaptured. Then, we will no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” Eph. 4:15
3. Deeper Teaching for Children
Jewish religious families focus on intense Bible study and fun-filled religious activity for their children. The children devote themselves to Bible study and passionate religious activities. Modern evangelical Sunday School and church teachings are often dumbed down and church activities are given second place to community sports and secular pastimes. It is time to put much more effort into the religious training of our children. I suggest GRFK Sunday School curriculum from CFM would be a good start.
4. Embracing Sacrificial Service
Embracing sacrificial service in the church is necessary for one’s life-focus and for spiritual maturity. All disciples must be dedicated to do God’s work.
5. Keeping Essential Traditions
Immaturity tells us it is ok to drop the traditions of our forefathers. Some should never be dropped, such as prayers before every meal, Sunday church attendance, and the paying of tithes. Failure to keep these and other traditions is shortsighted and immature.
6. A Secret Prayer Life
Spirit-led, secret prayer keeps us connected with God. Without it there is no spiritual growth. Every mature believer is always praying and talking with God.
7. Loving the Fear of God
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Mature disciples reverence the Lord. They keep His commandments and are not overly familiar in their attitude toward Him. Familiarity opens the door to sin, while reverencing God leads to spiritual strength and maturity.
Take a new look at the need for maturity. The coming revival requires it.