Grow Up: It’s Not Just About You! Part 1Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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 grow to become in every respect the mature body of 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.
If we think about growing up in Christ, if Christian maturity enters our minds, chances are we envision our own, individual growth as believers. Surely it's well and good for each of us to yearn to grow up in our faith. But, if you pay close attention to Ephesians 4:11-16, you'll see that growing up isn't just about you. This passage views Christian maturity as something that is corporate as well as individual, communal as well as personal.
Let's take a quick walk through this passage so you can see what I mean. In verses 11 and 12, Christ gives leaders to the church to equip all of God's people for ministry, "so that the body of Christ may be built up" (corporate growth). Verse 13 adds, "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God" (corporate growth). Moreover, the body of Christ is built up until we "become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (corporate growth, with a hint of individual). Verse 14 continues, "Then we will no longer be infants" (individual growth). Verses 15 and 16 goes on to say, "we will grow to become in every respect the mature body" (corporate growth), "from whom the whole body . . . builds itself up in love, as each part does its work" (corporate growth, with contribution from individuals). As you can see, the emphasis on this passage is on the growth of the whole body of Christ.
This passage in Ephesians stands in contrast to a thematically similar text in Paul's letter to the Colossians. In Colossians 1:28, Paul describes his apostolic ministry in this way: "[Christ] is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ." Here, Paul seeks to present every single person mature in Christ. The focus is upon individual growth, without denying the importance of corporate growth. In Ephesians 4:11-16, corporate growth takes the lead, though individual growth is implied present.
Therefore, though we are right to want to grow up as individual Christians, full Christian maturity includes the growth of the body of Christ as well. To put it bluntly, when it comes to growing up in Christ, it's not just about you. Your growth matters and so does that of the church. In fact, your growth in Christ is deeply entwined with the growth of your church and vice versa.
We'll ponder this truth a bit more tomorrow. For now, I'd encourage you to consider the following questions.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you think of Christian growth and maturity, what comes to mind? Do you tend to think mainly of individual maturity? Or do you focus more on the growth of the church? Do you see your maturity in Christ as necessarily connected to the growth of your church and vice versa? Why or why not?
PRAYER: Gracious God, I know that for me, I tend to think of Christian maturity in individualistic terms. It's something I need to do, something I can do, something I should do by your grace. I am not naturally inclined to think of my own maturity as connected to your body. Yet your Word is clear. So, I pray, help me to learn to think of my maturity in you as something that is part and parcel of the growth of your church. Give me a fresh perspective that leads to fresh action, so that I, along with your body, may grow up. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Family Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.