Though the years I have often wondered why some Christians, in general, and leaders, in particular, seem to continue to grow and mature and others stagnate or plateau.
I have come to the conclusion that part (not all) of the answer lies in what they do with the truth they know.
The end goal of course is maturity as His disciples and leaders.
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” Colossians 1:28 (ESV. Emphasis added)
“…to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…” Ephesians 4:12,13 (ESV, Emphasis added)
For this to happen, I believe that three things are essential:
1. Good Information
God’s people need good teaching, good doctrine, the right information. We live in information overload mode today. With the advent of the internet, there is no end to the amount of teaching, pod and vodcasts, books, magazines and blogs with good teaching. We need wisdom to not just focus on gathering more and more information but the right information, and then taking it to the next level. We need to be selective in what we read, listen to and watch. Everything available out there is not essential to our continued growth and personal development with Christ.
2. Prayerful consideration
Given the teaching and knowledge I receive, I want to take time to prayerfully consider it, think about it and drill deeper to understand what it means. I personally believe that too much time is taken by lots of Christians and Christian leaders in information gathering, but not enough time in thoughtfully and prayerfully considering and thinking about what they have received. I think Paul had this in mind when he said to Timothy, referring to some people: “…always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:7 (ESV). Always gathering information and learning new things, but not able to truly deeply grasp and understand what they have received. Too much receiving and not enough reflecting marks the lives of many in the body of Christ. When I conduct my seminars I always allow time after every presentation to have the participants take a few minutes to reflect, pray about and write some thoughts on what they just heard. In addition to thinking on my own, it is critical that I’m part of a community group which is discussing truth to help me better understand what scripture is saying. Some of the best insights we receive is through regular dialogue with other believers.
Again, in my seminars, I allow around 30 minutes for group discussion following presentations. I firmly believe that thinking and discussion are keys to deeper understanding of everything, but especially God’s Word.
3. Personal application
So, first we receive doctrine, teaching, information; then we intentionally take time to think and reflect over what we have heard and learned (both in solitude and in dialogue with other believers). The next step is to ask what it can mean to me personally and what I will do with what I have received and understood, through prayerful reflection and dialogue.
What we learn and understand will not change us unless it is applied through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciple in John 13:17 ESV, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Scripture clearly teaches us (James 1:22-25) that it is not what we know but what we do with what we know that changes/transforms/matures us.
“When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments.” Psalm 119:59, 60 (ESV)
It has been my observation that the reason many Christians and Christian leaders don’t continue to grow and mature is that there is an over-emphasis on getting more teaching and a lack of emphasis on taking time to think, dialogue and personally apply the teaching to my own life. What we need is not more knowing but more going!
Ezra 7:10 (ESV) is very instructive on this for leaders and teachers of God’s Word, “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach statutes and rules in Israel.” Notice the flow; set his heart, study, apply and then teach. It is very tempting to go from study to teaching with out applying it first.
Many leaders are information junkies and spend hours gathering, but precious little time in thinking, dialoguing and applying.
For you, is something missing in the maturing process?