Yesterday I received a phone call from a young couple I’ve known for several years. They are serving God as ambassadors of the Gospel and God’s blessing is evident in their ministry.
Just one year ago they announced that their first child was on the way and all who know them were certain they would make great parents. Then the baby was born and everyone immediately knew that this little boy was profoundly disabled.
Yesterday the new Daddy called to share that after months of tests the final results showed little Andrew would never grow much – either physically or mentally. His life expectancy could be six months or six years or even longer – but he would always be a baby. Of course, the parents are heartbroken but in their grief are showing maturity and Christ-likeness which serve as a model for many.
From Birth to Benediction
The phone call came as I was meditating on the passages in Paul’s letters that refer to the church as a body: Romans 12:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; and Colossians 2:19; 3:15. And then I read Ephesians 4:4-16 and especially verses 11-16:
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
From its birth as described in Acts, to the great Benediction at the Second Coming of Christ, the church is described as the Body of Christ. Every follower of Jesus is a part of that church and every church is part of the church universal. Together we are to be “built up;” to “become mature” so that “we will no longer be infants.”
We are called to “grow up.” Andrew will not grow up and that reality leaves his parents and their families frustrated, sad, and bewildered. But unless we have a debilitating disability, we, the church, are expected to “become mature” and leave behind the baby talk, milk, and childish ways.
Simply passing the days (and years) will never help Andrew grow up. Just showing up for church and going through the motions does not help us grow in Christ-like maturity.
We are called to honestly evaluate our own lives to determine the progress of the maturation process. That assessment is most successful when we turn to those who know us best and ask for their insight and respond to their questions.
Pastors and church leaders have an even greater responsibility: we will be held accountable for the people under our spiritual care. How are they doing? What are we doing to help promote their spiritual growth? What does the plan look like for moving people from new birth to adolescence to maturity?
As they think through the individuals in their congregation, maybe one of the questions leaders should ask is, Who is Sold out? Who is risking everything as a follower of Jesus?
Could it be that we should be as frustrated and upset as Andrew’s parents over the reality that our churches are full of people who still need milk and baby formula and cribs?
Over the next several weeks, I’ll share some thoughts about moving from Formula to Faithfulness; From Cribs to Crucibles; and From Diapers to Discipleship.