Archives For Discipleship

The Aim of Maturity

August 21, 2014 — 1 Comment

How are mature followers of Jesus to engage the world around them? What does spiritual maturity look like in this area? Do we abstain from watching this or drinking that? Or is it just the opposite, doing everything and anything we run across? What’s the answer? Well, it may help to think of a Christian’s engagement with the world on a spectrum with three different responses. The first two are found on the extremes of the spectrum.

The RULE KEEPER road sees life as black and white. If something is gray it’s wrong. Every aspect of life is governed by rules. The Bible is seen as Great Big Rule Book which shows us all the things followers of Jesus shouldn’t see, eat, listen, touch, feel, or enjoy as a whole. It is the life that is defined by how much you can’t do. On the opposite side, the FREE BIRD defines spiritual maturity by how much of world one can enjoy, consume, and experience at the expense of the rest of the Body of Christ. They trample consciences in parading their so-called “freedoms,” and frankly, they may not be sure if those activities are really healthy for themselves as well. Neither of these options display spiritual maturity but exactly the opposite. The Rule Keeper defines maturity by how much of world he cuts out of his life. The Free Bird by how much of the world he adds into it. Fortunately, the Bible gives us a better path to tread toward spiritual maturity.

Spiritually mature believers aim for a life that discerns the good from the bad, the beautiful from the ugly, the right from the wrong. It’s the life that takes from the world around it “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, [and thinks]  about these things” (Phil. 4:8)

Biblical discernment avoids the legalism of Rule Keeper and the licentiousness of Free Bird by charting a God-honoring, creation-enjoying, community-keeping path. That’s why discernment is the aim of believers who desire to engage the world in a spiritually mature way. No wonder the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:9-11, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Aim not at legalism or licentiousness, but the liberty found in biblical discernment.

Mature followers of Jesus are discerning followers of Jesus.

Biblical discernment allows us to…

  • Enjoy the fullness of God’s common grace found in the world
  • Have courage to engage the world instead of retreat into a Christian ghetto
  • Increase our understanding of the culture in which we seek to relate
  • Provide good examples to those younger in the faith about how mature Christians live in the world
  • Know how the gospel intersects each area of life, indeed, it is to see how all of life is centered around the gospel

This is why Heb 5:14 can confidently proclaim, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” You might need to grow your level of biblical discernment “by constant practice” if you…

  • expect the pastor’s sermon to be the primary way you get the Bible in your life.
  • believe every book which sits upon the bestseller shelf at the local Christian bookstore is a quality read.
  • continually expose yourself to media (magazines, music, movies) that shrinks, not expands, your soul
  • think a preacher is solid simply because his sermons make you feel good as you leave
  • refrain from certain activities simply because someone (e.g., a pastor) told you not do to it but you don’t know why
  • do whatever you like without first thinking, “How does the Bible address this?”
  • always find yourself asking others what the biblical thing to do is without doing the hard work of cracking open a Bible and discovering the answer yourself

Don’t settle for those poor habits. Aim at discernment because mature followers of Jesus are discerning followers of Jesus.

That’s right. Indoctrinate your kids. Especially as it concerns the faith. While the word indoctrination has negative connotations today, one definition is as follows:

1. to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., esp. to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.
2. to teach or inculcate.
3. to imbue with learning.

Does this not describe to a great degree the parent’s role in the discipleship process of their children, especially when the kids are young? Surely we want to “instruct [our sons and daughters] in [Christian] doctrine, principle, and ideology.” Is it partisan or biased? Absolutely! The knowledge we want inculcated into our kids is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings which flow from it. In short, we want our children to deeply know what God has revealed – to flee from that which he deems sin, and run toward that which he loves. One of the ways that best happens is via indoctrination. While it’s popular to criticize people of faith for indoctrinating their kids, the truth is, every child is in the process of being indoctrinated. At every turn in a young person’s life, someone or something is trying to place their beliefs into that child. Schools, churches, and governments do it. Parents, teachers, and coaches do it. You can be sure songs, movies, and television do it as well.

Even parents holding a negative view of indoctrination indoctrinate. Suppose a father and mother who pride themselves as intellectual progressives that disdain indoctrination in any form confidently proclaim they’ve withheld themselves from pushing their personal belief systems upon their kids. They chose to instruct their children to discover what’s true for themselves. However, they fail to see this also is indoctrination. They are attempting to deposit into their children the “ideology” or “principle” that truth is relative. Additionally, these parents may also lead their kids to conclude that what dad and mom believe isn’t so important that it’s worth passing down. Regardless how those parents view their actions, it is indoctrination nonetheless.

Therefore, the real question is not who is being indoctrinated but who is doing the indoctrination?

I witnessed indoctrination in action when my wife and I were invited to a friend’s baby shower. I walked into the room where guests brought their baby gifts only to see it full of Texas A&M stuff. It was like College Station has exploded all over the place. I noticed an Aggie doll wearing shirt which said, “Welcome to the world Lil’ Aggie.” I saw Aggie baby booties, Aggie hats, a CD with Aggie lullabies (for real y’all), and even a DVD entitled Baby Aggie. The cover had a baby clad in Aggie fare mouthing the words, “Gig’ em!” What struck me was the DVD’s subtitle: Raising Tomorrow’s Texas A&M Fan Today.

After my wife resuscitated me (I’m a Baylor Bear, she’s a Texas Longhorn), I could only come to one conclusion: this is indoctrination. Make no mistake, those friends and family wanted to place their beliefs about their college in that child. I would assume most Aggies who read this would say, “But of course!” (with a tear in their eye and the Aggie War Hymn in their heart) Why? Because they believe a love for Texas A&M should be “imbued” or “inculcated” into their children. Thus, it only makes common sense to strategically place the “truths of A&M” into kids when they’re young. Welcome to indoctrination.

As I said, the question isn’t who is being indoctrinated, but who is doing the indoctrination?

It’s a big reason why the Bible highlights the father and mother as the chief agents in the discipleship process of their children.  And why I call on parents who are followers of Jesus to use their home as place where they “indoctrinate” their sons and daughters in the truths of the gospel. Don’t just indoctrinate them in your favorite school, sport, or show. Pour the truths of the gospel into them! Read the Bible with them. Tell them about Jesus. Pray with them.

Why? Because you want to raise tomorrow’s passionate follower of Jesus today!

 

Different churches define membership different ways. My local church defines it by the union of four committed relationships: to Christ (“I believe”), to church leadership (“I support”), to church community (“I belong”), and to the unchurched (“I go”). We could say if one is deeply committed to the first relationship (Christ) the others would take care of themselves. However, we find it helpful to make distinctions relationally because it allows us not only to articulate what membership looks like but also what it doesn’t look like. For example, to be uncommitted to one of the three different relationships that make up the church (Christ, community, leadership) will produce one of three frustrating relationships:

The Rebel

This person commits to community and to Christ but not the leadership. He wants to be a part of small group and engage in worship of Christ at a service but rejects the direction of the elders. He subordinates the mission, vision, and values of the local church to his own personal mission and values. In the end, these individuals promote an adversarial relationship with the church, specifically with the church leadership, and can easily become the source of disputes, complaints, and a disgruntled spirit in the congregation.

The Consumer

This individual commits to Jesus in salvation and the mission, vision, and values of the leadership, but doesn’t want to be engaged in the church community. He resists or refuses fellowship, because to enter into community is to relinquish power to control the terms of the relationship. In other words, these individuals have a transactional relationship with the church. This individual wants from the church what he refuses to give. He treats the church not as parishioner, but as consumer.

The Faker

This person assumes since he is good at checking off a bunch of religious boxes he merits God’s favor and salvation. As such, it is easy for him to commit church leadership because he finds his security in his ability to perform responsibilities, and it’s also easy to commit to community because he is comfortable in religious environments where he compares his spirituality with other people. Unfortunately, these individuals are not truly seeking to grow their relationship with Christ and glorify God but to further personal agendas such as expanding their business clientele or search for a spouse. Ultimately, they have a utilitarian relationship to the church.

Rebels, Consumers, and Fakers are people who desire membership but adamantly and steadfastly reject commitment to one or more of the four relationships. They aren’t ready for membership but should examine where repentance needs to take place because adversarial, transactional, and utilitarian relationships only hurt the church. We must also remind ourselves this is about membership not involvement or attendance in the local church.  There can be tons of people in the congregation which cannot presently commit to the four relationships. They may be spiritual seekers who simply want to know more about Jesus and the gospel. Others may desire to better understand our mission and values. Still others may need more time dissecting the church’s essential beliefs to see if that’s what they believe. All of us are in process. None of us have arrived. What this tells us is that while some are ready and willing to embrace church membership, others may need more time in the journey. However, if one desires membership, the call is to fully embrace four relationships – Christ, his local leadership, his local community, and the unchurched.