I’ve heard it. If you’re in ministry you’ve no doubt heard it. You’ve probably heard it even if you aren’t in ministry. It goes something like, “I’m not growing here.” Or, “I’m not growing in that group or under that person.” Or, “I’m not hearing anything I haven’t heard before.” This person isn’t so much looking for the latest or greatest, nor do they have itching ears that want to hear what they want to hear. Rather they are someone who has been, at least in their experience, to the mountain top, and nothing else can measure up. They are the (virtually) unteachable Christian. They are the unchallenged Christian.
This can be a tricky person to talk to. On the one hand you want to humble them or tell them to beat it. On the other hand, they are facing an opportunity to grow, the very thing they think they can’t do in their current environment, and you should want to help them see this and grow.
My experience has been that this kind of person is an accumulator of information. They know a lot. They know more than the average Joe about theology. They know the issues around eschatology (end times), pneumatology (the Holy Spirit), they’ve been around ministry as a volunteer, or perhaps as a leader in some capacity.
But there is something missing. There is a disconnect. It really wouldn’t matter where they went. They could leave your church or ministry, try five different place, and they would eventually hear what they have already heard. Lather, rinse, repeat. Here is the question they aren’t asking; is being a Christian simply a matter of believing and knowing the right stuff? The answer is, of course, no. It’s living it. This is the disconnect that exists in much of Christianity these days.
(This observation is nothing new, but I was on four planes for 12 hours today, so I had loads of time to think!)
A mature or maturing Christian isn’t one who is always learning more information. It’s one who is leaning how to live out the information one already has. This is why seemingly mature Christians (Pastors are no exception as the news tells us) commit adultery, embezzle money from the church, go on power trips, leave churches without the Lord’s direction, the list goes on.
Speaking for myself, as a believer and as a pastor, I don’t think it’s very often that I or anyone really learns anything new from God’s word. There may be factual and historical things we learn as time goes on and we are students in the word, but that’s now what I’m talking about. Hebrews 5:12 says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” There is a core set of “oracles” to be learned to be sure. These all have to do with the gospel. Man is sinful and in need of a savior. God’s Son Jesus laid down his life on the cross to pay the price for this sin and rose again on the third day. From this reality stems a great many other truths.
What I’m finding in my own experience is that I’m not learning stuff in addition to the gospel. Rather, I’m learning new facets of the gospel. More specifically, how to live out the new facets that are learned. If we understand grace, we out to be living examples of it by extending it to others. If we understand humility, we ought to be examples of it by submitting to one another. If we understand love, we ought to be examples of it and deliberately do it to others.
These are the challenges. These are the things a mature believer does and continues to learn how to do. We can grow in these anytime, anywhere, under anyone. To think otherwise is simply pride. James tells us what God does with pride. He resists it but gives grace to the humble. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be there.