My son broke down crying tonight at bed time, “I don’t want to be 5!”
Apparently the responsibilities of being 5 years old have finally gotten to him. Maybe it is because he has a new sister and we expect more of him. Maybe it is because he is in preschool and listening and obeying teachers is expected. Whatever it is, he is feeling change and doesn’t like it. My heart hurts for him. Not so much for what he is going through now, but rather, for the fact that this is just the beginning. It is the nature of life to grow up and mature. And when that happens it means chang. And change can be hard.
The fact of the matter is that most people don’t like change. And this might be one of the reasons people shy away from maturity or growing up. Make no mistake about it, there is a maturity problem in our society. It has been around for a while now, but it seems like more and more people are noticing. Adolescence is being extended. College students still act like high school students. Young adults are adults in name only. There are, of course, exceptions to this, but I am describing a disturbing trend. It is like a large portion of a generation has said “I don’t want to be an adult” and has retreated into immaturity.
As a pastor who cares deeply for the people in my care, this worries me. For I see this not just being a societal problem, but also a church problem. There are portions of young believers who get caught up in this mindset, resulting in a drift through life or stunted spiritual growth. In my experience, young men seem to experience this rather acutely, but immaturity is no respecter of gender. As this tendency towards immaturity takes root, you get apathetic Christians who aren’t really sure what they believe, don’t really care to share it, and haven’t given a thought on how it changes their day to day lives. If this is true and continues to grow, our churches will be populated with anemic believers, barely showing signs of life.
The amazing thing is that this is not new. The writer of Hebrews seems to address people that might have been struggling with something pretty similar. We read in Hebrew 5:11-14 how these people should have been leaders and teachers, yet they still have to be fed “the basic principles of the oracles of God.” Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 3 how the brothers and sisters he was writing to are still “infants in Christ.” And he expressed how they should be more mature and yet are not. This is not a new problem by any means. The apostles dealt with it and it has been around in our churches from the very start.
This reality should give us hope for it declares to us that God is bigger than our immaturity. The gospel is greater than our inability. Grace covers our shortcomings. Jesus achieved for the underachievers. The Holy Spirit empowers the powerless. The Church’s future is not dependent on us getting our act together.
This doesn’t mean we don’t work and strive to help people mature. By no means! Paul says in Colossians 1:28-29 that he is toiling to present the believers as “mature in Christ.” And the kicker is that Paul knows this can only happen because God’s power is working in him. So this does mean that we work, but only with the knowledge that it is God working through us and in our people that produces change. It takes the burden of changing people off of our shoulders where it shouldn’t ever have been. It reframes our perspective.
So pastor, minister, mentor, leader, and all who care and are concerned about the maturity of our brothers and sisters, take heart. Be encouraged. Then struggle as Paul did, confident that God is working in us as we do.