Sacred: Part 3: Growth and Maturity

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?” – 1 Corinthians 2:14-3:4 (ESV)

“All in favor of impeaching J. J. Parker as the senior pastor of Nickel Grove Free Will Baptist Church say Aye.”

A chorus of ‘ayes’ and it was done.  23-year-old J. J. Parker was no longer the pastor of the small church that had voted him in a little under a year ago. What was the reason? Was it financial infidelity? Was it sexual promiscuity? Did he preach heresy? Did he have a hidden problem with drugs or alcohol? No. Even worse. He voluntarily paid for the church to have new carpet. Not even a new carpet color, just new carpet. And when he moved the pews back, he forgot put Brother Taylor’s pew back in the third row. This wasn’t just any pew. This was a pew that Brother Taylor had placed there in memory of his father who had been a deacon at this church for 32 years. This careless act of forgetting to place that pew back in the third row had gotten him voted out just as quickly as he was voted in.

This story is based on true events that happen in churches all across the country all the time. Why does this happen? Why can’t a church keep a pastor for more than a year or two at a time? Immaturity. That’s all it boils down to. People are immature in their faith and they begin to identify themselves with a person or a movement other than Christ. It’s okay to be fans of some theologians or follow some movements to see what God is doing through them, but it’s never okay to place your faith in that person or movement because they can fail.

Churches often place their identity with a pastor that catered to their every whim and did things exactly the way they wanted them to be done and as a result they handicapped that church and left them to wallow in their immaturity when it came time for them to leave that pastoral position. This is a disadvantage not only to the congregation, but to the new incoming pastor that has to clean up the mess that the old pastor left behind.

What Paul addresses in this passage is maturity and growth. He is writing to them a second time (1st Corinthians is actually the second letter to the Corinthians because the first letter was never recovered, thus 2nd Corinthians is actually the third letter), and he’s not perfect people by any means, but he is expecting a people that have grown since the last time he wrote to them. He’s thoroughly disappointed.

Parents, imagine you’ve potty-trained your baby. They are now independently going to the bathroom on their own. Then one day you’re in the living room and your child is play with his/her toys and you see that familiar look on their face and that all too familiar odor creeps into the room. After once going to the bathroom on their own. They’ve pooped their pants. This is no accident. This is a regression back to days gone by when making the effort to go to the bathroom was even an issue and someone else could clean up the mess. This is exactly what Paul is feeling at this point when the Corinthians are exhibiting immaturity and lack of growth.

Ultimately, what is happening is that these people are attaching their faith to a person rather than putting their faith in Christ.

“For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”
– 1 Corinthians 3:4 (ESV)

The Corinthians are forgetting that guys like Apollos and Paul had to be trained in godliness just like they are being trained in godliness (Acts 18:24-28). We idolize people instead of worshiping, loving, and receiving instruction from Jesus. In the end, when we truly submit to God’s Spirit we allow Him make us mature and grow us in the beauty of His holiness.

Methodology vs. Meth-idolatry

“Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” – [Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV]

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols”. – [1 John 5:21 ESV]

I was listening to a lecture given by Mark Driscoll and he was talking a new movement that he and a few other pastors are a part of called, ‘New Calvinism’. The four points of this movement are:

  1. Reformed Theology (Traditional Calvinism)
  2. Complimentarian Relationships
  3. Spirit-filled Lives
  4. Missional Churches

I won’t exactly dwell on the movement but I’ll provide you with the information and you can do the research for yourself.

What I wanted to focus on was something that Pastor Mark said in his lecture that caught my attention. He said that if you’re not careful, you’re methodology can turn into meth-idolatry. This happens when you love tradition more than you love Jesus. This is why it’s hard to convert a lot of Mormons because they love their religious structure more than they love Jesus. Of course, no one would ever verbally or even consciously admit to loving tradition more than Jesus but if you’ve ever been in a traditional church long enough then you know it happens. And don’t think that because your church isn’t traditional that it means that your church isn’t subject to it. It happens in traditional and non-traditional churches alike. People fall in love with method instead the God who inspired the method. But after a while, culture changes and as the culture changes our methodology should also change. While all this change is taking place our message should remain the same: “Christ died to save sinners.”

I grew up in an old-school Pentecostal atmosphere. I firmly believe that there is no school like the old school but there are some disadvantages to ‘traditional church’. The problem is that the concept of ‘traditional church’ will die. Church hymnals will be in the museum; pulpits and kneeling rails will be nothing more than relics of once was.

One thing you must realize if you’re a young pastor and you’re trying to mix things up in a traditional church is this: If you’re going to move the piano in a Pentecostal church, do it one inch at a time. If you shake things up too quickly then you’ll have a bunch of old religious stiff getting their boxers in a knot over something that has eternal value. For example, the minute you bring in theatre seats in a church instead of pews you have people saying stuff like “This is church; it’s not supposed to be comfortable.” (Yes, I’ve actually heard that one.)

Remember, I also said that more modern churches were susceptible to this as well. What happens is this, they get into a mentality that all tradition is bad and because it’s old is must be thrown out the door. This is an erroneous presumption that stemmed from Emergent Church movement. Pretty much the concept of emergent churches was to throw out anything old, have no kind of tradition at all to the point where they starting questioning fundamental doctrines just because they were a tradition in the church such: the divinity of Scripture, the issue of homosexuality, the existence of Hell. A good example of an emergent church pastor would be Rob Bell. He does not believe in the literal existence of Hell. He also doesn’t believe in the divinity of Scripture because anyone who doesn’t believe in the existence of Hell doesn’t believe in the inspiration of Scripture, it’s just not possible.

Another thing about traditions and methods is that they vary from culture to culture and geographical location to geographical location. A lawn mowing ministry would not be needful to someone who lived in the desert and didn’t have a lawn to mow. If you’re going to do good ministry you need to be a student of your student and learn to adapt in a way where you can bring the message of Christ in their own language and in their own terms.

In conclusion, there’s no need to get into an argument about tradition, culture, and methodology because it’s all going to die anyway. The only thing that will last forever is the word of God.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” – [Matthew 24:35 ESV]

As for those resources that you were promised:

Four Points of the Movement – Mark Driscoll
http://theresurgence.com/v/h7ue7jqmuff1

Four Points of the Movement Re:visited - Mark Driscoll
http://theresurgence.com/v/zfw9npg3d2r6

Article in Times Magazine about New Calvinism

carm.org on the Emerging Church Movement