Where are the Mature Saints?

October 2, 2007 | Comments Off on Where are the Mature Saints?

Gordon McDonald has an outstanding article in CTs LeadershipJournal.net. He’s talking about the sad lack of mature Christians and what he believes is the cause of it. Here are a few choice tidbits, but do take time to read the whole article. He’s right on!

The marks of maturity? Self-sustaining in spiritual devotions. Wise in human relationships. Humble and serving. Comfortable and functional in the everyday world where people of faith can be in short supply. Substantial in conversation; prudent in acquisition; respectful in conflict; faithful in commitments.

Right now I’m wondering … if we church people have forgotten how to raise saints. And if the question is worthy, then what’s been going wrong? Bad preaching? Shallow books? Too much emphasis on a problem-solving, self-help kind of faith?

Maybe the answer is deeper or more profound that that. Perhaps it has to do with the penchant in churches (the last forty years or so) to package everything into programs. You need programs to make large churches go: kind of like the automakers need an assembly line that stamps out fenders as fast as possible.

But mature Christians do not grow through programs or through the mesmerizing delivery of a talented speaker (woe is me) or worship band. Would-be saints are mentored: one-on-one or, better yet, one-on-small group (three to twelve was Jesus’ best guess). The mentoring takes place in the streets and living-places of life, not church classrooms or food courts. And it’s not necessarily done in Bible studies or the like. Mature Christians are made one by one through the influence of other Christians already mature.

Additionally, mature Christians become mature by suffering, facing challenges that can arouse fear and a sense of inadequacy. Mature Christians learn to wrestle with questions that defy simple answers. They learn to say strategic and tactical “no’s” when others are indulging themselves by saying “yes.” Oh, and mature Christians wrestle against the devil, you could say, and sometimes even lose. But they learn to get up again. Could I add, while I’m on a roll, that mature Christians are experts at repenting and humility.

But we have a rising (I daresay, a life-threatening) problem in the modern church. Older people—above 50, let’s say—don’t want to be tutors or mentors. Too busy, too distracted, too secretive, too afraid. So a younger generation of spiritual infants is really struggling because an older generation doesn’t want to tell its stories, doesn’t want to get involved. They prefer Christian cruises, Christian golf tournaments, and more Bible studies where information can be piled upon information.

That’s a sad commentary, but I couldn’t agree with him more. and it’s been that way most of my Christian life. As a young Christian, I looked and looked for older role models. People who would share their lives, their marriages, their families, their struggles, with someone who had not grown up in the church. Never found them. I see it now in mature Christians who are tired and ready to coast rather than investing in another challenging person.

This brings to mind one of my all-time favorite books, We Really Do Need One Another by Reuben Welch? One of my favorite quotes from it:

You know, we want to save ourselves and hold ourselves back as though the highest goal in life would be to look good in our caskets. It’s no special blessing to come to the end of life with love unshared, selves ungiven, activities unactivated, deeds undone, emotions unextended. It’s not an encouraging thought, especially at my age in life—but I have the feeling that when a person is middle-aged, he ought to be about half used up. And when I read this passage, I keep asking myself what I’m saving myself for? Isn’t it God’s intention that when we come to the end of the line, we’re just about used up?

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