It’s a beautiful thing to watch your children grow up – and for Mel and I, to watch our grandchildren grow up. They learn so much, especially in the first 4 or 5 years of life.
They learn to recognise and respond to mum and dad; to crawl, then walk; to talk; to feed themselves, dress themselves, to read and write.
It seems only yesterday that we were caring for our infant children, and now they are all raising beautiful children of their own. We are justifiably proud of them.
How quickly it flashes past; how quickly they grow. One of the grandchildren has reached the stage where he doesn’t want to sleep in the cot anymore. He wants to sleep in ‘the big boy bed.’ And he no longer likes the highchair at mealtimes. He reckons he is grown up enough now for the ‘big boy chair.’
It seems he is in a rush to grow up. Pity so few of us adults feel the same way.
I recently listened to a podcast on the subject of ‘Perpetual Adolescence.’ It was both fascinating and disturbing at the same time. You can find it here: https://player.fm/series/white-horse-inn-22386/perpetual-adolescence
The gist of the message was that the transition from childhood to adulthood has been significantly delayed in our modern society. In fact, they claimed that the whole concept of adolescence is foreign to the Bible and foreign to every culture until less than 100 years ago.
Rather, a young person went from childhood immediately into adulthood somewhere around the age of 14. As a ‘newly-minted adult,’ the young person was now given adult responsibilities, including work, higher education, helping to support the family – even potentially marriage.
In the Bible, ‘youth’ is used not to speak of a teenager stretching his wings or trying to find her place in the world. Instead ‘youth’ is a relative term used merely to describe someone younger than the person speaking. The youth already had adult tasks.
For example, David had been a shepherd fighting off lions and bears from his youth [see 1 Sam 17:33-37]. The Proverb writer told his son to “rejoice in the wife of your youth” [Pro 5:18]. Paul told Timothy to “Let no one despise you for your youth” even though he was already pastoring a church [see 1 Tim 4:12].
But it seems nowadays that we are all desperate to grow up, but when we finally reach adulthood, we stop wanting to grow. Instead, we try to grasp our youth back.
What’s the old cliché about mid-life crisis? The 50-year-old balding man driving a new convertible with a 20-year-old woman hanging off his arm. It really is pathetic.
Paul addressed his letter to the Ephesian church to help them to grow up into maturity – to become adults. In Eph 4, he tells us about the ‘Five-fold ministry gifts’ of apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers that Christ gave to the church.
And these men are given for a purpose: “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes [Eph 4:12-14].
When the leaders get serious about equipping the saints, and the saints get serious about serving in the body – the local church – then that whole church grows up and becomes mature. And the Church Universal moves one step closer to maturity.
When the church becomes mature, then each individual in the church is protected from wolves and false teaching, from deception and scheming, even from passing and pointless fads.
None of us like to think we are immature and easily fooled. All of us like to imagine we are grown-up, stable, not easily conned.
But there is only one way to ensure maturity. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Friends, each of us has a part to play in the health and maturity of the local church. And as we play our part, we also become mature and stable ourselves, healthy in every important way.
Have you been neglecting your gift to the church? Time to get serious about serving. Are you unsure how to do what you feel passionate about? Time to talk to you leaders about getting equipped.
Pastors, have you been equipping your own ministry and neglecting that of your people? Time to train up and release your people to do the good works that God has already prepared for them to walk in [see Eph 2:10].
Your health and the health of your church depends on it.
Friends, you need the church. And the church needs you.