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. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ (Ephesians 4:13,14).
Several years ago, a survey was conducted of approximately 2000 people in the Chicago area. Their feedback was solicited because they had one thing in common: they had all abandoned Christian churches.
And the surveyors wanted to know why?
When the results were tabulated, the respondents gave 2 answers that ranked above all others :
#1 – church was boring.
#2 – church was irrelevant to their lives.
What would the Apostle Paul’s reaction have been to those conclusions? I think he would have quickly concluded a deficiency in belief, and a lack in knowledge. They both are symptomatic of chronic spiritual immaturity within Christ’s Body.
When writing to the church at Ephesus 3 decades after the Resurrection to people with whom he had lived and worked among for 3 years, the Apostle declared that being a part of the church (“one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism” – Ephesians 4:4,5) was essential for Christian growth and maturity.
Paul described that maturity in terms of what we believe and what we know:…”so that the body of Christ may be built up, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature…”(v.13).
And when what we believe and know is consistent with the truth of God’s Word and when healthy growth and vitality are present, 3 common local-church afflictions are avoided: immaturity, instability, and gullibility.
Paul identifies them like this:
- “Then we will no longer be infants” – immaturity is not child-likeness, but childishness. Everyone is drawn to the one, and annoyed by the other; we all recognize the difference.
- “tossed back and forth by the waves” – instability leads to erratic behaviour and unpredictability in thought; spiritual apathy – or outright disobedience – results.
- “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” – that concept can be reduced to a single word: It is described in compelling imagery: a leaf blown at the whim of capricious gusts and zephyrs, being exploited because of the inability to drive down roots for sturdy balance and growth.
Authentic Christian belief and genuine biblical knowledge result in faith communities gaining incremental, corporate maturity. Like the early church in Acts, maturing fellowships encourage the faithful traditions of the Lord’s Supper and baptism – both practiced in community.
These two ordinances –essential in the life of the believer – are inextricably linked to life in the local church says F.F. Bruce:“both involve sharing the common life in the body of Christ with all other believers, and carry with them serious ethical corollaries which Christians ignore at their peril.”
This is serious thinking in the 21st century, where followers of Christ have often developed an unhealthy autonomy. “Some of us think of ourselves as Lone Rangers, but there’s no such thing in the body of Christ. The Christian journey isn’t one of independence but dependence. That’s the way God has designed it,” says pastor and former Kawartha Lakes Bible College teacher Stephen Yuille.
Takeaway: Try these 2 questions of self-diagnosis, a type of self-administered survey, and reflect on your honest answers:
- if I were suddenly removed from my local fellowship, would the ongoing Lord’s work feel the weight of my absence?
- and, if I were suddenly removed would my brothers and sisters in the local Body know without question that I passionately loved that church, and therefore loved them?
~graphic by Craig Parylo, freeimages.com
this blog first posted July 2015.