Developing Spiritual Grownups
One of our main jobs these days is to help new Christians to grow up. Paul spotlighted it when he said that we are no longer to be children, but we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head: Christ (Ephesians 4:14,15). And I’m sure you recognize that the primary reason we should grow up is so that we can help others grow up, too.
I once thought it would be helpful if I knew how the Bible defined “grown up”. That way, I’d know what I was shooting for in my own maturing, and would also be able to point out the target for those I was discipling. So I looked up every place in the Bible where adults were described – fathers, mothers, parents, elders, leaders, pastors, etc. Here are a few characteristics of “Grownups” that I discovered:
They nurture and cherish (Isaiah. 49:15a; 66:12,13; 1 Thess. 2:7,8). A spiritual adult is someone who takes care of spiritual babies. One Bible expositor observed that the Hebrew word pater (father) is “from a root signifying nourisher, protector, upholder.” Hey! That’s exactly the kind of attention spiritual babies need!
They teach (Deut. 4:9; 6:6-9,20,25; 1 Chron 28:9; Prov 4:1-5). This is clearly seen as one of the major jobs of parents in Old Testament times. Because this characteristic was sadly lacking in the Hebrew Christians, Paul blasted them with both barrels in Hebrews 5:12. My paraphrase: “By now you should be teachers; instead you’re still babies. You should be givers; instead you’re still taking.” The opposite of a baby is a teacher; the opposite of input is output. Input is fine for babies, but output is the goal for adults.
They discipline (Prov 3:12; 13:24; 23:13,14; Hebrews 12:4-13). A grownup isn’t afraid to put a little teeth into his or her teaching. I do it with my kids, and my dada did it with me. It’s important. One of the reasons the Body of Christ today is so full of spiritual wimps is because it’s so full of wimpy spiritual parents. Too often our leaders are unwilling to hold the “children” accountable, rebuke them when needed, and mete out loving, effective discipline.
They are sympathetic (Psalm 103:13,14; Prov 12:18; Luke 15:20; Galatians 4:19). They can discipline, but they aren’t tyrants. A grown up Christian knows the difference between the loving hand of a father or a mother, and the vindictive, self-seeking hand of a tormentor. It’s tricky, but it’s vital that we find the balance between love and discipline.
They are encouraging (Deut 3:28; Prov 12:18; 2 Cor 1:3-7; Ephesians 4:29; 1 Thess 2:11,12). It seems that with some parents (both physical and spiritual), about the only time they open their mouths is to yell about yet another bungle their kid has committed. Growing Christians need a lot of encouragement – to do better and when they do better. As the “One Minute Manager” instructs, “Catch them doing something right.” My aspiration is to be a “Home On The Range” disciplemaker – you know, the kind where never is heard a discouraging word . . .
They are responsible workers (Gen 2:24; Prov 31:10-31; Isaiah 22:20-24; Hebrews 5:14). When a person becomes a grownup, he needs to take on adult roles and responsibilities. Most of you are probably familiar with “The Excellent Wife” of Proverbs 31. Did you ever notice how skilled, experienced, knowledgeable and conscientious she is in a wide variety of pursuits? Specialists are great when it comes to doctoring – but not in the realm of spiritual leadership. The wider our scope of skills and abilities, and the more responsible we are with them, the better able we will be to meet the needs of our disciples.
They are servers (Matt 20:25-28; James 4:6,10; 1 Peter 5:5,6). Jesus made it clear that if you want to be the greatest, you must be the servant of all. I’ve noticed that whenever Average Joes like me sit around and talk about the “Spiritual Giants” of our day whom we might have had the good fortune to associate with for a period of time, the most prevalent personal characteristics that are mentioned about them are humility and a servant’s heart. Never forget that the disciples we minister to are not here to enhance our ministries; we’re here to enhance theirs!
The above article, “Developing Spiritual Grownups” is written by Chris Adsit. The article was excepted from: www.discplemakersinternational.org web site. October 2013.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.