Mrs Jones was an atheist who thought Christians were "idiots". She had an argument with a Christian who suggested she was missing the whole point of Christianity and so she decided to read the bible. She says, This book began to read me as I was reading it. So began her journey to spiritual birth and growing in faith.
Each of us has a different starting point in our spiritual journey and we are at different points in our progress towards spiritual maturity. Some are young in the faith, some are mature Christians, others are seeking but are yet to make a step of commitment to Jesus.
Spiritual searching - The Parable of the seeds gives us an initial view of conception, of beginnings. “Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.” (Matthew 13:3) This seed it is a Christian concept or idea that we come in contact with. We have people in our church who are considering Christianity, and we have ministries such as the New Migrants class where spiritual conversations are taking place. As a church we seek to foster these conversations so people can learn about Jesus.
Spiritual birth - Jesus spoke of spiritual birth as a key moment in spiritual growth. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) At the moment of conversion there is a new spiritual baby in the faith. New born spiritual babies (irrespective of our physical age) require support in order to grow and flourish spiritually. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,” (1 Peter 2:2)
There are many things we can do to help spiritual infants grow including protecting them with our prayers, offering spiritual nourishment from the bible, and providing safe spaces to explore questions of faith.
Spiritual children - We look for these spiritual babies to grow to become spiritual children. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Child-like trust and humility are important in Christian growth. They enable us to experience faith, to stretch our faith, to climb to new heights in our faith. For the first months of our lives milk was all we had, and at that time of life it was the best nutrition we could have, but it could not sustain us through life. As we grow we need solid food. Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:12–14)
Spiritual maturity - With time, Christians should become spiritually mature. It would be odd if the church was like Peter Pan’s Neverland where the children never grow up. In Eph 4.14 Paul exhorts us to no longer be like infants tossed back and forth by waves, but to grow up in our faith. Every church needs mature members, spiritual grownups with spiritual experience and wisdom.
There is a trap mature believers can easily fall into. You might hear it expressed, This church is no longer meeting my needs. The demand to meet my needs is the mentality of a consumer society. The church will bend, buckle and collapse if it tries to meet everyone’s needs. The bible teaches, “My God will meet all your needs. (Philippians 4:19) Although he will often use the church, it is God, not the church supplies our needs, There is a significant difference here which is like, mistaking the waiter who serves the food for the chef who prepares and provides it. The key to this stage of spiritual development is not to go looking for satisfaction at a different church, but to realise that God has filled you up, not to meet your needs to satisfy you, but so you can help to meet the needs of others. To paraphrase the words of John F Kennedy, ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.
Questions to consider:
Am I a spiritual seeker, at the point of spiritual birth, a spiritual child or mature in the Christian faith?
What part in my spiritual growth does God, the church and I play?
What do I need to do to grow spiritually?
How could I help others grow spiritually?
Rev John Malcolm