Grow Up: It’s Not Just About You! Part 2Daily 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.
In yesterday's reflection, we saw that Christian growth as pictured in Ephesians 4:11-16 is mainly corporate. Though individual believers are to "no longer be infants" (4:14), for the most part, this passage emphasizes the growth of the body of Christ as a whole. Elsewhere in his writings, Paul can speak more pointedly about the growth of individual believers (see Col. 1:28, for example).
It would be wrong, however, to pit corporate growth against individual growth. Both are important and, in fact, both depend on each other. This is implied in Ephesians 4:11-16, where the development of the church depends on actions of individual Christians who have been equipped for their ministry and are leaving behind their state of spiritual infancy. If solitary believers are not growing, then surely the growth of the whole body will be hampered.
Similarly, your individual growth in Christ depends, to a great extent, on the quality of life in your Christian community. If you are in a place where others serve, teach, encourage, challenge, and pray for you, then it's likely you will be growing. If you are in a church where you can watch the lives of mature believers, chances are you'll grow to be like them through imitation. Conversely, if you are in an immature church, or if you are cut off from the church altogether, then your growth as a Christian will be stymied. Yes, if you are extremely disciplined, you can still manage to grow, but it will be a struggle.
My guess is that you understand what I'm saying here from your own experience. If you think of times in your life when you were growing solidly in Christ, chances are you will have been active in a growing Christian community. And if you think of times when you were really stuck, there's a good possibility you were trying to live the Christian life mainly on your own. Of course, there are always exceptions to these tendencies. Sometimes, we grow by getting away from other people so we can focus on the Lord. And sometimes being away from Christian fellowship challenges us to strengthen our own spiritual disciplines.
But, for the most part, individual maturity in Christ is interwoven with corporate maturity in Christ and vice versa. That's the way God designed the church. That's the way God designed you.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you think of times in your life when you were growing actively in your faith, were you deeply connected to a growing Christian community? How does such a community actually help you to grow in Christ? Are you part of such a community now? How might you contribute to the growth of your church? How might your church contribute to your own growth in Christ?
PRAYER: Gracious God, as I look back on my life, I see the deep interconnection between my own growth in you and my connection to a growing community. I thank you for those who have helped me and taught me and encouraged me to grow in you.
I pray today for Daily Reflections readers who are not part of such a community. Perhaps their church is anemic. Perhaps they are in a fine church but simply haven't found a way to get connected. Perhaps they are not active in any church. Perhaps . . . Lord, you know what's true. I pray for these sisters and brothers, asking that you will help them find and invest in the kind of Christian community that is essential to their growth in you. Amen.
Image courtesy of Laity Lodge Family Camp, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.