It seems to me that there are more Christians today that don’t attend church at all or only go occasionally than there are committed regulars.
But if you’re serious about growing up in Christ and becoming mature there’s no way around it, you’ll have to embrace church. Church is the way God has chosen to do business in the world. It’s his only strategy for bringing in his kingdom and experiencing the abundant life Jesus offers. There is no alternative plan.
Look around at the church and you’ll see a lot of immaturity – immature leaders and immature followers. The American celebrity-consumer brand of church doesn’t promote maturity very much. It’s turned congregations into dispensers of religious goods and services; markets where customers go to get their needs met: Where they go to get fixed; find a self-improvement program or to be entertained. And when that doesn’t happen to their satisfaction they shop around for a better deal.
However this doesn’t bring about depth or growth because spiritual maturity and fruitfulness require putting down roots, making commitments, taking on responsibilities and being accountable.
You don’t grow spiritually by merely attending church services. You may have an occasional highlight: an exciting spiritual experience; receive a prophetic word here, get tickled by the Spirit there. But you won’t, as Paul put it, “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.” (Eph. 4:13) Which is at its very least something life transforming. Something lasting and satisfying, impacting every area of your life – the way you live, work and play; the way you treat people, handle your money, manage your time, your relationships, your sex life, the way you behave when no one else is looking.
In my life I’ve found that the key to growing up and developing maturity has been learning to commit and take responsibility. For me, growing up hasn’t happened living in isolation no matter how zealous and devout I tried to be. It happened as I did life together, as family, in community with other Christ followers.
Again Paul wrote (the comments in parentheses are mine), “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body (local church), joined and held together by every supporting ligament (relationships and roles that keep us connected), grows and builds itself up in love (matures) as each part does its work (takes responsibility, exercise our gifts, becomes accountable and serves in this community).” (Eph. 4:15-16)
The Holy Spirit helped me grow up and exercise family responsibility in a local church community by giving me grace in the form of spiritual gifts. Gradually, as I committed to participating in community, caring for and serving others, these gifts developed into the strengths, dependability and accountability of spiritual maturity.
I started out as an awkward, needy unstable spiritual baby, but as I developed a responsible working relationship with God and began showing up to help, serve, give, teach, pray, heal, evangelize, host, organize and administrate, you name it, whatever needed to be done – I gradually grew up and matured.
There’s really no magic to this. It’s actually all pretty basic Christianity 101. There was no single discipleship class or program, no specific healing in my life or dramatic mountaintop experience that did the trick. Mature living was and still is realizing that I’m not an island unto myself; that I’m included in God’s workforce – a responsible member of God’s community participating in Christ’s kingdom mission to make the world around me a better place. And as I continue, the payoff is a satisfaction and joy like no other.