Attending church is supposed to be a worthwhile endeavor. The idea is that we become Christians and plug into a body of believers who help us mature and grow until we, ourselves, are released to the work of ministry – or that’s the general idea. However, with more and more churches being inwardly forcused or missing apsects of the 5-fold ministries, who is regularly modeling the great commission and the gifts and anointing beyond the pastor?
Every person that comes to Christ is supposed to be on a journey that leads to spiritual maturity and their eventual release or raising up. But instead, and for a variety of reasons, most people never get beyond being pew fodder and consider it their duty to just show up and listen all the time – as if they were students in perpetuity.
Each Christian is supposed to grow into a calling that God has put into their hearts. Each is just as valued, important and big to God as any televangelist or pastor. Regardless of the visibility of the person, the mission is of a significance and importance to God and a person’s growth in the Lord depends on it. A person can have a huge calling on their life but if they do not learn the things that God requires of them, the mission or call will not come to pass. This is not because of God, for he gave the word in the first place and spoke it into existence and once God does that, it remains for a lifetime. In other words, the call of God is irrevocable, but if we don’t make the necessary adjustments in our life to fulfill the call of God, it can be forfeited.
The apostle Paul touched on the development of people and the way he viewed his own growth process in 1 Cor. 13…
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
Eventually every Christian should see themselves in this way. There is a shift that should takes place in the life of a believer as we progress in our walk with God where we leave behind the elementary truths of faith and gravitate to new levels and new found truths. In fact, Paul confirms this in Hebrews 5:12 where he writes:
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. (NLT)
GROWING AND DEVELOPING
If we charted our growth and deep levels of relationship with God, it should increase continuously, and if it doesn’t, that is a barometer for atrophy and indicates a need for some level of correction in the way we approach our times with God. For some of us, we just need to create time for God. For others it may be something that God is correcting in our lives and walks. For example, perhaps we need to forgive someone and until we do, we plateau in our level of growth because what God has for us in that action of obedience is not something that he will allow us to avoid in order to progress to the next level.
The intrinsic meaning behind Paul’s message to the Hebrews explains the process of personal growth, maturity and promotion and what is, basically, spiritual development. As Graham Cooke says, God measures growth, not time. This idea collides with many pastors’ perceptions that their people are never ready for ministry until they go through one more mandatory training on servitude or tithing to get them where the pastor wants them. In a word, pastors seem to be fixate on time served and use a constant barrage of motivational speeches to achieve that objective. Instead of constantly trying to motivate the body, pastors would be better off looking for the anointing wherever they can find it and release it as soon as possible.
I attended one church where everyone, regardless of maturity, was required to take a weekly class. The message communicated was, “If you don’t take the class, you will not serve in ministry” – regardless of your calling, anointing and maturity. Billy Graham could’ve “cowboyed up” to the altar one day and it wouldn’t seem to matter. At best this requirement was a doctrinal religious system with not much of a goal other than control and obedience. At worst, sometimes it seems like some leaders only want more butts in the seats and this is one way to do that. In the end, it wasn’t well thought out. The class only seemed to benefit young Christians who had not yet dealt with extremely fundamental and basic questions of faith.
I’m not suggesting that only younger Christians should be taking classes and growing. We all must strive to go deeper with God in the corporate environment and that starts by taking personal responsibility for what we get out of church. At the same time, church leaders should avoid using people’s precious time to make them jump over artificial barriers just to fulfill an arbitrary objective before we let the serve in the church. Service should be based on integrity, gifting, anointing, call and maturity. If these things are evident, what are you waiting for? Release them!
EXPAND YOUR CHURCH
One way we can avoid being pew fodder is by expanding who is in your personal church. Find a mentor or some good tapes and CDs. Get some books and worship that really make your heart sing. Connect with others in a home where you can talk about what God is doing in your life. Start doing some social networking. Websites or social forums like Facebook and Twitter are great ways to enlighten yourself into other happenings in the kingdom. If you’re not being challenged enough to grow from the teachers in your life, do something about it. If not, you’ll only become bored and listless trying to substitute what should be a spiritual church life with a functional church life. It’s not enough to stay the same and if the teachings in your life are not deep or challenging enough, you must go out and find them yourself.
As our spirits grow, they must be fed by people who understand what makes us tick and by people who have walked out what it means to live a deeply spiritual life. That’s why relationships alone will not be enough as they are no substitute for a healthy spiritual life with God. A deepening spiritual life with God should involve time spent in the word, reflection on what God means by the things he says, and an increased amount of time spent in prayer. Time we spend in the word will lead to more meaningful and impactful prayer and meditation, and this road always leads to new revelation. Whether you are reading it, mulling it, or praying about the word, it all leads to revelation because “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17)
THE FUTURE YOU
You have something more to offer. You are not pew fodder. You serve a hugely big God and you have the same amount of God available to you that anyone else has – I don’t care if he’s the Pope himself. You need to stop thinking about yourself in limited, present terms. Your view of God is directly tied to your circumstances and what you accomplish in the future. Start to see and hear what God has called you to be even if it seems unattainable or is still invisible to your church. We must start to see ourselves in a future-tense perspective, leaving behind the past-tense for good. God does not see the person you are, he’s dealt with that already in the death and resurrection of his Son. You have been redeemed once and for all. God now sees the person he’s called you to be and lives in the place between the present and the future you. Still not convinced? Let me ask you this: What part of your born again nature and your unrealized potential includes your past? It’s a trick question…the answer is none of it.
Read 1 Phil. 3:10-15 and see what Paul thinks about dwelling on our old Adam nature instead of your new Christ-given nature:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. (NIV)
God is cheering you on to forget your old self. Imagine the burden that Paul carried around the year’s following his conversion. How could he not be guilt-ridden for the persecution and murders of Christians now that he had seen the light and become one himself? But for the grace of God and redemption offered to Paul through the life of Jesus Christ, God convinced Paul to repent and then to turn his back on his past once and for all, to focus on what he was becoming in Christ. The same is true for you. It is time for you to become the evangelist, teacher or prophet that you are to made to become. You are uniquely qualified by God to fulfill a specific purpose that God created you to do. You may know what that purpose is but perhaps you have let go of it and let the enemy convince you that it’s impossible or that you’ll never amount to anything. But that is a lie from the pit of hell! You are uniquely qualified unlike any other person on the planet to do what God called you to be. Your calling is real and just as important as any other leader’s call in the eyes of God.
I want to balance out this article with one final thought. There are times where God puts us in a place of resistance to contain and control us – to train us to wait on him, not only so we can learn to trust him, but so he can learn to trust us! It is just as important that we patiently wait on him as it is to boldly run to the throne-room of God and embrace our new nature. Please inquire of the Lord why you are in the place you are in and do not run away in frustration. If you are frustrated waiting to be noticed, wait some more and inquire of the Lord about what to do next. No matter what, God is faithful and he will help you and tell you what to do next. Maturity is not something that just grows on trees. Realizing your potential means you’ve done the dirty work. It also means you must deal with hard things and learn what God wants you to learn in each situation without running away in hast. If you run away from one growth opportunity, you only invite another until you learn what God wants to teach you along the way. So wait on God. Really it’s ok to wait even if you have been waiting for what seems like a lifetime. If you have a promise from God, you can take that to the bank. Rushing anything without knowing how your prior circumstances have changed you for the better, will only delay your promotion, not hasten it. It only shows God that you are not ready.
Finally, your pain and suffering must be something that others can touch without the pain returning in you. Therefore, see each situation in your life as an opportunity for growth so that you get to the next stage in your life. Don’t ask God Why is this happening?”, instead ask, “What is this for?” and you shall get your answer. Seek growth as your primary goal and that’s exactly what will happen.