Summary: Paul tells the church at Ephesus that one of their goals should be to "growup" and no longer be children. But how would they know when they had accomplished that? What are the marks of a mature congregation?
OPEN: My grandson Benjamin (the apple of my eye) is 2 years old, and I know that one day someone is going to ask him this question: “What are you going to be when you …. (grow up)?” As I was doing research for the sermon this morning I found there was huge number of children’s books with this title: “WHEN I GROW UP” or something like it.” (we showed a picture from the “Little Critters” series of books by that name). In other words, they’re asking: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
And kids love that. They want to grow up to be something – a doctor, a lawyer, a ballerina, a cowboy or an Astronaut - but they want to grow up. And Jesus understood that need. That’s one of the reason He told us “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
Now, when you hear that word “Perfect” you’d might think that Jesus was saying that we need to be SINLESS like God is. But that’s not true. The Greek word there is “telios” which literally means “complete” or “mature.” In fact, that how the word is translated in Hebrews where we read: “… solid food is for the MATURE (the grownups) ...” Hebrews 5:14
So when Jesus said “be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect, He was actually saying “Grow up to be like your Heavenly Father.” So Jesus wants us to grow up as Christians.
But apparently, He also wants His Church to grow up. Look again at Ephesians 4:13-15. We’re told that Jesus wants us to “attain …to MATURE manhood, (and) to the measure of the STATURE of the fullness of Christ so that we may NO LONGER BE CHILDREN… (and) speaking the truth in love, we are to GROW UP in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.”
As a church, if we want to please Jesus, we must make it our objective to “GROW UP.” (Pause) But … what does that mean? How could WE possibly know what a grown-up church looks like?
Well… God’s helps us out here. 1st – He gave us the tools to guide us in growing up. Ephesians 4:11 says “He gave (us) the APOSTLES, the PROPHETS, the EVANGELISTS, the SHEPHERDS AND TEACHERS.
Back in the days of Paul… the Apostles were still alive. And we’re told in Acts 2:42 that early church “…devoted themselves to (among other things) the APOSTLES’ teaching…”
Nowadays those Apostles are dead and gone, but their teaching lives on. They live on in the Bible. Every time you read from the New Testament, you’re reading from the teachings of the Apostles, and those they endorsed. SO… those are the Apostles.
The PROPHETS were men who proclaimed God’s Will to the church. The EVANGELISTS were like the REVIVAL speakers. And the SHEPHERDS were Elders who guided the congregation. AND TEACHERS… well, they were teachers. These were the men who laid the foundation for Christ’s church, and every church that wants to grow up to please Jesus will cultivate these leaders… and use them.
But there are a lot of churches who do have all of that (all of those resources), but they’re still not grown up. They’re kinda like… baby churches. These are churches that have to be pampered, and fed, and have their diapers changed all the time. Unless or until the teachings of the Apostles, and the work of Prophets and Evangelists and Shepherds and Teachers accomplish their goals, the local church will still be childlike… not an adult.
So, what are the markings of a mature congregation? How would you know if a church is “grown up?”
Well, 1st – a mature church DOES STUFF. Ephesians 4:11-12 “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints FOR THE WORK of ministry, FOR BUILDING UP THE BODY of Christ.”
QUIZ TIME: Why did Jesus give us the Apostles/Prophets/Evangelists/Shepherds and Teachers??? ANSWER: to equip us to do stuff, and to do the work of the ministry. Work of the ministry is Work that builds up the body of Christ (the church).
ILLUS: Years ago I was talking to the preacher at another church - and he had a problem. They had a nursery in the church building… but nobody would work it. They’d have new couples come in with children, but there were no workers for a children’s church, and no workers for the nursery. And do you know WHY there were no workers for those ministries? The members told him “We’ve worked in the nursery in the past. It’s time for us to be able to just set in church.”
That church was immature. They wanted to be pampered and fed their bottle from the pulpit… and have their diapers changed. But they didn’t want to do anything for the body of Christ.