In his earlier post, Dave Terpstra described why the spiritually mature find most churches ill-equipped to assist them in their growth. This, he says, is why the more mature often leave the church or disengage from active service. After reading your responses, Dave has returned with further thoughts about spiritual growth within, and without, the church.
When my friend's dad died it was a challenge to his faith to say the least. His dad was a long time follower of Christ and had been in full-time ministry for years. He seemed to be at the height of his ministry career. The he got sick and died. My friend didn't officially "leave" our church. But as best as I can remember he stopped serving. He stopped participating in programs. I rarely saw him at worship services. I'm sure he missed more than he made. But God was up to something amazing in his life and with his faith.
Some of the comments in response to my original article seemed to hold the viewpoint that my friend was being spiritually immature because he stopped serving. But to cut straight to the point, I trust his maturity more than those who would question it simply because he stopped serving for an indefinite period of time.
It has been my experience that everyone who matures in their faith has times where God grows them tremendously through basic discipleship and service. I would hope that those are maturing elements of our faith to varying degrees throughout our lives. However, I disagree with those who would argue those are the only times and ways in which we grow. I believe in the same way we experience times of transformation through discipleship and serving, we also experience times of inner transformation that are not initially outwardly expressed.
In Galatians 1:15-17 Paul writes, "But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus."
According to scholars Paul spent a couple of years in Arabia. He was not doing the externals of the faith, being discipled in church services or serving. Paul was receiving the gospel straight from heaven. That seems to be quite a journey inward to me.
Why is it that when someone tells us they need to take a break from serving or from the programs of our churches we become so defensive? Was Paul being selfish because he took two years off from helping in children's ministry? I think my defensiveness towards those who might leave my church is wrapped up in a healthy sense of wanting what's best for them, and an unhealthy desire that I (or even my well programmed church?) have failed them.
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