Over the past few months, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Christians and the church. But I can’t complain too much because as I’ve become more frustrated with Christians, I’ve become frustrated at myself. The frustration that I face is because of an epidemic facing the church in the United States, an epidemic that I often help fuel.
What Are We Doing?
When I meet with people about the church in general and Vintage Church in particular, I often hear one specific request. Often times, I meet people who are new to the city of New Orleans who are looking for a new church to connect with. Very seldom do I hear people who are interested in finding a church where they can have authentic community and or a place to selflessly serve. Instead, what I often hear is a focus on the worship gathering. In particular, they want to be a part of a church where they enjoy the music and preaching. Here me on this: I’m not suggesting that those two elements are not important. In fact, they are essential elements to the Christian church. However, music and preaching are not everything.
How does this connect with my frustration you ask? My frustration is not that we as Christians want sound, biblical preaching and heart-felt music. My frustration is that we equate sitting under awesome music and preaching as the number one way in which we grow spiritually. The reason we think sitting under biblical preaching and music is growing in maturity is because we think spiritual maturity equals acquisition of knowledge. If we simply learn more about the Bible and who God is then we will become spiritually mature.
As I shared at the beginning, I’m partially frustrated at myself for this. As the Equipping Pastor for Vintage Church, it is my sole responsibility to focus on the equipping of Vintage Church. I feel that sadly sometimes I have equated that equipping with head knowledge more than anything else.
Why Spiritual Maturity Is More than Head Knowledge
Without doubt, I believe what we know about God, Jesus, what it means to be a Christian, and other elements are important to our developing maturity in Jesus. However, I do not believe that this knowledge is the be-all and end-all of the Christian life. If spiritual maturity is not head knowledge then what is it?
The Bible provides countless pictures of what spiritual maturity looks like. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shares that spiritual maturity is to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). James, the brother of Jesus says something similar. He commands the church to “be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:4). If you’re like me, right now you’re asking yourself, “How in the world can I, a sinner, be perfect?” The answer comes from the words of the apostle Paul. Throughout Paul’s letters, he commands his church to do one thing: imitate me as I imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1; Philippians 3:17). Why would Paul desire for the church to imitate him? That sounds awfully prideful. Paul was concerned about one primary thing: he wanted the church to become like Christ, and the closest living example for the church to see how Christ lived was Paul. Don’t miss how Paul’s desire for the church to be like Jesus is connected with Jesus’s and James’s desire for Christians to be perfect. You and I can only pursue perfection when we pursue Jesus. And this perfection is not a “I never sin or mess up perfection.” This perfection is becoming more mature, becoming more like Jesus.
Paul’s desire was not to fill the church with a ton of knowledge (although he certainly did that). Paul desired that Christians would look more and more like Jesus each day. If we want to imitate Jesus, we must ask who he was and what he did. While he was a phenomenal teacher, Jesus was known for two things: he tangibly loved God and loved others. He did not just speak about loving God and loving others. What he believed was displayed in how he lived his life. My greatest concern for Vintage Church and the church in America is not how much or how little we know about God, but rather about how obedient we are to God. What I want to put before you is this: spiritual maturity should not be defined by what we know about God but by how obedient we are to God.
Other next couple of weeks, we are going to unpack more what spiritual maturity looks like in the Christian life. Check back next week for more!