Grow Up: Christian Maturity in 140 Characters
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.
With today's reflection, we finish an extended series on Christian maturity. For several weeks, we have considered how we are to "grow up" in Christ. Now, as we conclude, I want to remind you of a few highlights and then see if I can squeeze them into a Twitter-sized summary of 140 characters.
Ephesians 4:11-16 views Christian maturity primarily in terms of the whole body of Christ. This passage is mainly about how the church is to grow up into Christ, both in size and in character. But, the growth of the body of Christ depends on and facilitates the growth of the individual member (4:14-15). So, the emphasis on corporate growth informs our understanding of our individual growth as Christians.
How does the church grow up? Fundamentally, this is something that Christ himself does as the head of the body, the source of its growth (4:15-16). Christ gives to the church gifts of people in leadership, including pastor-teachers, whose main function is to equip all of God's people for the ministry of building up the body of Christ (4:11-12).
Notice, pastor-teachers and other church leaders are not the ones who do the ministry of building up the church. Many Christians, including many pastors, think this way. The biblical model is different. The ministry belongs to all of God's people, those we sometimes call the "laity." Pastor-teachers and other church leaders, those we sometimes call the "clergy," are to equip all people for their ministry, for living a life of service to God that builds up the church.
The final verses of this passage underscore the essential involvement of each and every Christian in the work of growing the church. All of us are to speak the truth in love, which leads to the maturation of the church and its members (4:15). Christ enables the whole body to grow, but only "as each part does its work" (4:16). This work happens as members, having been equipped by their leaders, use their gifts to serve the church and to bear witness to Christ in the world.
Throughout Ephesians 4:11-16, we find an assumption that corporate growth and personal growth depend on the teaching and learning of God's truth. Pastors are essentially teachers of this truth (4:11). Our unity is in the content of our faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God (4:13). Immature Christians are blown about by every wind of false teaching (4:14). Yet, as we speak the truth in love, we will grow up both individually and together into Christ, so that we might become all that God intends us to be. Knowing the truth isn't everything when it comes to growth, but it is utterly essential.
So, how might we sum up this passage in a Twitter-sized package of 140 characters? Perhaps in this way: We grow up together as Christ, through church leaders, equips all of us for the ministry of building the body as we speak the truth in love.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Are you growing in Christ? If so, what contributes to your growth? If not, why not? What might you do to cooperate with Christ in your personal growth? Are you contributing to the growth of the body of Christ? If so, how? If not, what might you do as one called to speak the truth in love so that the church and its members might grow up?
PRAYER: Thank you, Gracious God, for this stirring vision of the church and its growth. Thank you for entrusting us, not just the leaders, but all of us, with the sacred work of growing your church. Help all of us to receive this assignment with joy and eagerness.
Lord, help those of us placed in positions of your leadership not to think of ourselves as "the ministers" so much as the equippers of all of your people, true "ministers." Teach us to teach them how to build up your body. Help us to model speaking the truth in love in all we do, not just when we're "on the clock."
May your church grow, Lord, to become more like you. May many more members be added as people receive the Gospel of your grace in faith. May we all grow to maturity through your power and truth. To you be all the glory! Amen.
EDITOR’S NOTE: All week on The High Calling, we’re focusing on transitions in the workplace, home, and community. Are you experiencing change in your life? Join us each day this week for articles, interviews, and reflections on thriving in transition. Or, do you know someone who is going through a transition right now? Encourage them by sharing one of this week’s articles via email or social media.