In my earliest days of being saved, one word popped up often: Balance. Ten years in, I think I’m beginning to understand how much balance relates to spiritual maturity in the church.
There’s a song called “Say So” that asks, “What does it mean to be saved? Isn’t it more than just a prayer to pray, more than just a way to heaven?” For many, salvation is nothing more than a moment in time when we accept Christ to avoid hell. If this is true, then the church is irrelevant. This is an unbalanced view.
On the other hand, some believe the church is a place to be fed. The more spiritually mature you are, the greater your expectations of the church. Worship should be lengthy, the Holy Spirit should move tangibly, and the pastor should “go deep.” As long as I’m able to come and get all my needs met, I’m satisfied. But if the church doesn’t feed me “meat,” I’m out!
Although (or maybe because) it’s opposite the other view, it’s also unbalanced. There are deceptions being dished out on both sides. Church isn’t irrelevant, but it’s also not a high chair.
Erwin McManus put it this way:
I hate this whole Christian phrase about “coming to be fed.” ‘Cause there’s gotta be a certain point in your life when you’re not coming someplace to be fed. You’re a big boy now! You’ve grown up, you are now feeding yourself. And what I hope our times together will do is not feed you, but make you hungry.
If we’re leaving church hungry, that’s a good thing! It means our appetite for God has been whetted. It means we understand there’s so much more to God than we could ever ingest in an hour or two on a Sunday morning. We got a taste and saw that he’s good; now we can spend the rest of the week seeking more of him. That works for the new believer and for the spiritually mature. As far as spiritual growth is concerned, the church’s role is to spark the desire for God in anyone who encounters us. From there, we individually work out (or walk out) our salvation knowing others will walk with us, but not expecting anyone to do it for us.
And for those of us who consider ourselves mature, I’m certain we’re not meant to eat and drink while others starve. I think real spiritual maturity looks like loving people! If we’re really focused on God, we’ll want what he wants. We’ll love what he loves. So we can’t say we love God and forget about, mistreat, or otherwise dis people–whether they’re believers or unbelievers. We’ve been given the ministry of reconciling people to God. Isn’t this the gospel–that he came to rescue people? That he gave his life for people?
So here’s the bottom line. The litmus test of spiritual maturity is to love God and love others.
(Oh wait … Didn’t he say that?)