Have you ever met someone who had been a Christian for a long time, but nobody liked being around him or her because they were so cranky? I have. Maybe they faithfully attend church and hear sermons, study the Bible and pray a lot, yet they’re still spiritually immature. They still use their words in a hurtful way, and still think it’s all about them. And if you’ve never met a person like that… look in the mirror because that person just might be you!
Growing as a Christian is a lot like the stages people go through in growing from infancy to adulthood. Every phase has its own set of characteristics, discoveries, joys, and frustrations. If you had a child that never matured physically, emotionally, and mentally past 3 years old, you would be greatly concerned and go see the doctor. Yet it’s not an unusual thing for a person to be a Christian for a lot of years and still be a spiritual baby. I don’t think God meant it to be that way!
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. (Hebrews 5:12-13, NLT)
I think that part of the problem is selfish consumerism. Western society has trained us to be savvy consumers – how does the “product” make me feel? Apply consumer thinking to Christianity, and you have a steady flow of people who grow dissatisfied with a church or ministry and move on to the next “product” that makes them feel good. But if we move on every six months or two years, we don’t grow beyond our selfishness. It’s like we remain in spiritual puberty perpetually, trying to figure out who we are, trying to fit in but always feeling like an awkward junior high boy who just had a growth spurt and is breaking out in zits all over his face.
It’s not just a 21st century dilemma though, 2000 years ago, many of Jesus’ followers turned away from him (John 6:66). When he asked the twelve if they wanted to leave as well, Peter replied,
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John6:68-69, NIV)
Even though the disciples had all sorts of issues and immaturities, eleven of them recognized who Jesus really was and kept following. After spending three years with Jesus, they were ready to carry his Kingdom mission to the world. They weren’t perfect, but had grown closer to him and were available to be used by him.
Here’s a few thoughts on growing beyond selfish consumerism:
- Choose to keep following Jesus, even when it’s tough; develop spiritual habits that include reading the Word and praying daily. Ask God to shape your character and help you grow.
- Follow Jesus in a community of friends (i.e. join a Community Group where you can be encouraged to keep following and grow beyond selfishness – http://www.sdrock.com/communitygroups/find/).
- Get involved in bringing pervasive hope to your neighborhood through a monthly outreach project with your Community Group.