65% of church attending Christians are not growing in their faith, either having plateaued or regressed- according to a ’94 Gilliam study (Strategic Disciple Making, 77).
This statistic is staggering, but not necessarily surprising. I think that it’s sad, but true. One of the biggest problems facing the church today is a sense of complacency and a stagnated growth process. Here’s a humble confession, for about three months (Nov-Jan), I would have had to admittedly include myself in this statistic. Somehow I don’t think that I am alone. Unfortunately, many people hit a certain level of growth and then for whatever reason, seem to pause maturation- for either a season of life or indefinitely. The sadder thing is that we generally don’t realize that we are doing so, and when the question is posed, we are reluctant to answer it with honesty.
Why is this the case? Why do people who stop growing? How is complacency such a problem in churches? Why isn’t it more easily detected and resolved? Gilliam offers six points of explanation.
- 1) We don’t know what a disciple is.
- 2) We don’t know how to make them.
- 3) We don’t know how the church’s programs play a role in making disciples.
- 4) We don’t know how to assess our progress and assure continued progress.
- 5) We don’t know how to be model disciples as leaders, and we reproduce the same caliber disciples and future leaders.
- 6) We don’t know how to intentionally change this problem without offending people or creating division. So we don’t attempt to do so.
While I agree that all of these components contribute to stunted maturity, points five and six strike particularly close to home. Both are reasons why I plateau and am reluctant to push others to maturity. One of my biggest weaknesses is I assimilate to the standards of the people around me. Likewise, I am not always the model disciple that I pray that others will be. Unfortunately, others assimilate to my less than ideal standard of leadership as well. Another weakness of mine is a tendency to avoid controversy, offense, and divisiveness- especially when I know I’m supposed to be helping encourage maturity. Sadly, I tend to spend time around people who do the same.
Oh, what do we do when the things we read hit too close to home? Pray, repent and resolve to seek God’s guidance for change. That is my intended course of action as I long to grow in maturity and to help others do the same.
“Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity… and God permitting we will do so” – Hebrews 6:1,3.
What then is our goal in maturity? What is the standard we strive to achieve as Christians?
“God’s call is to all who believe is to be Christian in all we do.” (Odgen, Unfinished Business, 247).
Our responsibility is to hold one another accountable to that call…. here’s to continued maturity until we are perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48).