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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"A walloping great congregation is fine and fun, but what most communities really need is a couple of saints. The tragedy is that they may well be there in embryo, waiting to be discovered, waiting for sound training, waiting to be emancipated from the cult of the mediocre." Martin Thornton

I am pondering this statement this morning. It's kind of rattling around in my brain and in my heart. Particularly that final phrase. Doesn't that really define most "Christians" in America today--bound up in the cult of the mediocre? Which leads to a deeper and maybe more difficult question: what does it take to become mature as a Christ follower, to be "emancipated from mediocrity?"

Because you're not sitting next to me as I write, you don't know that there was this really long pause right there. Followed by another as I contemplate the answer(s) to that question. Here are some random thoughts. Maybe before this is over I will pull them together in a logical order. Maybe that will come in a blog to be written later.
  • Maturity does not come through programs. Programs are convenience. Our churches watch individuals come to be Christ-followers, hand them a book and stick them in a room with 20 or more other individuals and hope that maturity happens.
  • Maturity does not come when true believers hide their faults and failures. One of the unique things about the Bible from cover-to-cover is that it never hides the faults of its greatest heroes (Moses, Noah, David, Peter, Paul, etc.)
  • Maturity is developed in the halls of real life. It is found around tables stacked with empty Starbuck's cups. It is found in quiet restaurants where two or three gather to be real with one another. It is found in dens and bonus rooms of a thousand different houses where small groups gather to talk about real life Christianity (as if there were a "fake life Christianity").
  • Maturity does not come by ignoring our faults and failures but by admitting them and giving them to Jesus.

That last point was driven home in a quiet time I had this morning. The author was pointing out this passage of Scripture: But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. Luke 22:32 NIV

Now, we all know that, because of their intimacy, what Jesus prays, God hears and responds to. So Jesus prays that Peter's faith will not fail--and it doesn't. "But he denied Jesus three times, didn't he?" you might ask. Yes, but here is the beauty of this passage. Jesus, himself, points out that Peter's failure does not indicate a failing of his faith, simply a bump in the road. God looks at your whole life--not this mistake or that one. God values you for everything He sees, not the blips that dot your screen. (follow me, I'm coming back to my point above). Jesus' words were this, "When you have turned back, strengthen (mature) your brothers."

Jesus was saying to Peter, the other disciples and every Christ follower since that day, "I don't expect you to be perfect. I expect you to try. I don't expect you to never get it wrong but when you do and have found your way back, use those lessons to mature your brothers and sisters in Christ." That's it. That's the answer. How does a new believer go deeper in their relationship with Christ? They learn from the lives of those who have gone before them. How does an existing believer make it from the "milk to the meat" as the apostle Paul put it? By living a real and genuine faith before others, exposing himself to God's word on a regular basis and opening himself to regular accountability with other maturing Christians. (Okay, warning, here it comes). It comes from "doing life--real life--together."

One other comment before I shut up. Exposing yourself to God's word on a regular basis does not mean attending worship once a week. It doesn't mean attending a Bible study and it doesn't mean reading it on a daily basis. All of these things are good and they can contribute to maturity. In fact, you cannot mature without these in your life. However, truly exposing yourself to God's word means taking it in for yourself and allowing it to change your behavior. I can deliver the greatest message on Sunday morning (that's bringing you the Word) but until you allow your life to be changed in light of what you have heard (that's lifting the fork to feed yourself) then it's just empty words. The same is true for reading the Bible. Let me tell you, there are plenty of atheists who know the Bible backwards and forwards, better than me or you. You and I become "practical atheists" when we read the words of the Bible endlessly but do not re-arrange our lives based on its teaching.

Lots of stuff in here today. Just kind of got fired up by Thornton's words. Bottom line is this, what are you doing to emancipate yourself from spiritual mediocrity? Wherever you are, are you moving forward towards maturity or languishing in a mediocre spirit that is killing you and paralyzing the church where you worship? The Church needs true saints. Why not you and me?


Henry Styron said...

Hey, Ridley!

I don't particularly need a reply. We were neighbors but not close in seminary, and, other than riding to graduation together, I don't think we ever talked. Along with a bazillion other people I saw your article in Home Life, said, "Hey, I remember that guy!" and thought I'd let you know that I appreciate your letting God use you even in such a time as this.

Praying for you.

Anonymous said...

Ridley, I also want to express my appreciation for your open and honest testimony. Many church members have come to me and said that your article in Home Life has been a blessing in their life. We are praying for your family and ministry. I wondered if you went to Mercer University? I think we might have met once. Again, continue allowing God to use you!
In Him, Jodie (Pastor's wife)

Diana said...

This has to be one of your best thought provoking posts yet...

Why not you and me?
Maturtiy also steps along the side of security. The more secure in your faith the more willing you are to "come follow Me" (Me being Jesus)and maturity is also helping others in their walks with Christ. Being not only honest with God, also being real with out fear to those whom you spend "life" with, which is everyone.
We get content with just going along being second best in living life for God. Some never take risks and rock the boat for fear of the waves and they drowned in a sea of saddness never trying to go to the next level in a relationship with God or other people for that matter.
God wants us to whole-heartedly storm in and knock ourselves out for Him, and if we fall short or show the faults oh well,He is gonna be the one to pick us up and dust us off.
He would know we did our best for Him. If we all went full-force into what God asks of us, would we ever be able to comprehend what God has planned for us? That goes for anyone and everyone. So why not me too?
awesome thoughts for the day...anyday

favorite staff member said...

So how do you really feel? Good stuff!