Earlier this week I asked a group of around 35 men about their church experience.
“How many of you ever had a pastor approach you and say, “I’d like to help you grow as a Christian.”
No one raised their hand. Not one. No glorious testimonies were shared of time spent in learning and understanding God’s Word under the tutelage of a more learned and experienced disciple.
They were not alone…I didn’t have that experience either.
I went on to talk about the fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he says that Jesus gifted the church with pastors and teachers to disciple the congregation and how that that was Jesus’ plan for the church from the very beginning. (Check out Matthew 5-7)
Mentoring, Paul says, helps new believers move from spiritual childhood to spiritual maturity. That way they can bring into their parenting, their marriage, their relationships, their thought life, their values, their priorities, and their worldview the whole counsel of God. He is our Creator—He knows how life works.
The men that I was talking to were outraged, despondent, shaking their heads in grief for opportunity lost. They had just learned one part of the Why that explained the trajectory of their lives.
They became aware of the problem that comes with staying a child…it means that you don’t come to understand how to fulfill your responsibility as a new-creation adult. Instead of becoming more like Jesus (who is awesome in every way) and enjoying the solidarity of the sacred community; functioning as a vital participant—you, instead, become susceptible to bad advice and worldly wisdom which keeps you stunted as a kid trying to navigate a boat in a storm, ‘tossed to and fro and carried about’.
Children cannot ‘adult’.
Spiritual children cannot adult, spiritually.
And we wonder why the Church is in such a mess. If it isn’t a school where people are actively learning to know God and live for him then it is a nursery where adolescence is enabled by default.
Think of all the applications missed and all the mistakes made.
What about the absence of peace, the lack of joy, and the missing perspective?
Consider the ground lost and the achievements not realized.
How many problems have been self-inflicted?
Is it possible that many, who had come, might have stayed?
What is to expected from those who are spiritually immature?
How would a return to this mightily enhance the lives of those in the congregation?
What, after all, does Ephesians Chapter Four mean?
I think it is The Plan.
The plan to bring everyone up and connect everyone together so that we are mighty and wise and confident and brilliant and inspiring and fulfilled as Jesus himself, was, and is.
That is the plan that all of these men, and myself, and you—the reader, should have experienced when we first walked into a church.
Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.