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Summary: Churches are too often controlled by immature Christians. Though they think themselves to be mature and godly, they are destructive and harmful. Christians need to work at maturing in Christ to ensure that He is honoured through the Body of Christ.

“Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, and of instruction about washings, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.” [1]

Christians are often shocked to discover the degree of immaturity resident among the people of God. We come into the Faith with the assumption that God’s people will reflect a measure of maturity, especially if they have been in the Faith for any length of time. Preachers are just as naïve concerning the maturity of churches.

Maturity is a neglected subject among the Christians. Every member of the congregation, if he or she should actually give the matter thought, imagines he or she is mature—able to handle slights, disappointments or any problems that occur in a given relationship. However, the evidence is that a great deal of infantile behaviour is justified within the congregation because of immaturity that is unrecognised for what it is or at least not admitted.

Joe McKeever tells a story of a fellow servant of Christ who commented on one occasion, “Church is the only place on earth where people can throw hissy fits and get away with it.” [2] McKeever cites a minister who was serving his first church out of seminary. He continued his story by noting that he asked his friend why he would say this. The preacher had two stories—stories that are tragically similar to any that almost any servant of Christ could tell.

In the first story, the minister told of a church member attending a class that he was teaching. She couldn’t find her workbook. The pastor told her that he had borrowed it for another class, but that she was welcome to use his. Her response was to say, “Okay, I’ll go home then.” And she stalked out of the class. The minister relating the story asked, “Would she have done that at work? At a doctor’s office? I think not.” However, she had no problem putting her immaturity on full display at a meeting of the church.

The next story was of a man who stormed out of a church leadership meeting because his idea for a fundraiser was rejected. The minister relating the story asked, “Would he have done that in a college class? At work? At home? At the store, even?” The answer is obvious. McKeever notes, “And this guy was a church leader!”

Then, McKeever makes this observation, “The church—which is the institution which we Christians should respect most—ends up being the least respected by many. And the pastor the least respected professional.” That is a stinging indictment of the modern congregation. Tragically, it is proven true in far too many instances.

This, then, is the message today. It is intended as a challenge to the people of God to think about who we are. If we understand who we are, we will realise that how we treat God’s people—the assembly of the faithful—speaks volumes of our maturity. It matters little how long we have been on the journey; what matters is how far we have come. Boasting of how long you have been a Christian is quite meaningless; it will become obvious how closely you are walking with the Lord when you are disappointed by some incident.

THE GOAL OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE LORD — “Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.” A primary goal for Christians must be maturing in Christ. To be sure, we are responsible to win the lost, defend the Faith, honour Christ the Lord through fellowship in the Word and discover the richness of the Gospel of Christ—and we will do these things if we are actually mature in Christ. However, these goals are means to achieve the one major goal— each Christian is to mature in Christ, mature in the Faith. This need for maturation is not to be pursued in isolation from growing toward maturation as a church.

Look at this truth from a Pauline perspective. Writing in the Letter to the Ephesians, Paul says, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

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