As we face the new millennium, we acknowledge that the state of the Church is marked by a paradox of growth without depth. Our zeal to go wider has not been matched by a commitment to go deeper.
The Eastbourne Consultation on Discipleship (England, 1999)
It was almost 2,000 years ago that the Apostle Paul wrote a letter that undoubtedly prompted reflection and prayer among Jesus followers in and around the large commercial city of Ephesus. After painting a magnificent portrait of God at work in the world through Christ (Ephesians 1-3), Paul urged them to live a way of life worthy of God’s gracious and powerful work (4:1). He challenged the community’s leaders to foster maturity in its members (4: 11-13). Then Paul wrote,
We must no longer be children… But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. (Eph.4:14-16)
The need for spiritual maturity gripped the Apostle Paul over 2,000 years ago. It was urgent work then; it is urgent work now.
One is hard pressed to find a time in history when the Church has gone more places, provided more resources, and proclaimed the gospel more widely than over the past several decades. Yet amidst all these efforts, there is a growing realization today that we are just skimming across the surface.
Just a quick glance around our congregations reveals that people’s lives are more often a reflection of our culture’s superficiality than of the gospel’s depth. In a 2007 article entitled “So Many Christian Infants,” Pastor Gordon MacDonald bemoaned our lack of maturity by asking the church, “Why are we so good at leading people to faith and so bad at prodding them to maturity?”
As we, God’s people, move forward in this particular place and time, our commitment to go deeper must match our pervasive zeal to go wider. We cannot afford to procrastinate this work of helping others grow up into Christ. Our flourishing as a Church on mission depends upon men and women in our communities maturing and developing. Many of us have been hearing or teaching this Ephesians 4 passage for years; but we want more, we want to be a part of actually experiencing it here and now.
At one level or another I suspect if you are reading this, you share the Apostle Paul’s deep concern—helping others grow up into Christ. You believe your church, your community, can be a place of deep growth for adults. And you want to contribute.
Our prayer around the VP3 community is that you will each hear and respond to the Spirit’s invitation to intentionally invest in others’ lives. We desperately need leaders who befriend and guide and come alongside others; we need to provide a leadership of companionship in our contexts that actually helps others be awakened to Christ and freed up to make a difference in the world.
Fundamentally our lives are not our own; they are gifts we offer to others and to the Lord. How then is the gift of your unique life being offered to others? Who are you walking with? Who are you investing in?