Growing Up: It Takes Time
2014-05-17
What does it look like for a church and the people who make up that church to mature?  We often talk about growing up in the Gospel or growth in Christ, but what does it take?  What does that look like?  In the church where I am the lead Pastor we decided to preach through Paul's letter to Titus to encourage the congregation in growth and commitment to Christ.  The church in Crete where Titus was pastor had probably been started by some of the same Christians who had heard Peter preach at Pentecost.  The Cretans had returned as zealous new Christians to their island in the Mediterranean where Paul and his crew eventually found them.  Titus was left on Crete to grow the church, pastor the church, and to teach them the doctrines of salvation.  They, like the church where I pastor was a new community that needed to commit to maturity.  A maturing church is committed to Jesus more than anything else.  And like anything else that we commit to, maturity takes time.  

Think about the things in your life that you have committed to.  Hobbies.  Sports.  Relationships.  Marriage.  Children.  School.  Career.  Now think about the knowledge, maturity and skill that you had when those commitments were only four years old.  In marriage, we barely even knew our spouse.  In the sport that you love you were way worse than you thought you were at the time.  As a musician you would probably laugh at where you were at four years into it.  I think about where my children were at fours old.  They are loving and selfish.  They are funny and obnoxious.  They think they know everything and yet they know nothing.  They are unafraid to tell you what they are thinking and they really do believe that they understand the world perfectly.  And yet, if our children continue to act like four year old's when they should be acting like adults we would think something terrible has gone wrong.  I think about my skill level on guitar when I had only been playing for four years.  I was a senior in high school and I played guitar to get dates, to rock out, and to get dates.  My tone was terrible. My equipment was junky.  And my skill was not all that great.  I have now been playing for 28 years.  I am different.  I have matured.  I still want to rock out, but I only want to date my wife.  My point is that maturity takes time.  It is a necessary ingredient for anything that we commit to.  

In four years, Stone's Throw Church has doubled in size, purchased a 1 million dollar piece of property, begun a 3 million dollar building project, baptized new believers, grown in membership and produced new leaders and community groups so that the Gospel goes out on many nights of the week in our community.  But we are young and we have much room for growth and maturity.  We need more leaders to lead more groups.  We are growing our children's and youth ministry so that they learn what the Bible says at an early age.  Our worship and preaching is maturing.  How does that work?  Well, just like anything else, if we are committed to Jesus and growth in the Gospel we will spend time with God.  Time is a necessary ingredient for Christian growth and there is no substitute.  

First, Time + Worship = Growth.  How much time do you spend in communion with God each day?  He has given you His Word and the means of grace so that you can know Him more.  Do you take Him up on His offer?  Do you spend time reading what He has to say to you?  Do you spend time giving thanks, confessing your sins, and worshiping God on a daily basis?  This takes time.  It takes more than five minutes.  It may take longer than it does for you to catch up on your DVR'd shows.  It may even mean sacrificing time in front of the LCD screen, time on the field, or time in the garage with your cars.  It is fashionable these days to dismiss the disciplines of grace - or how they have been come to know as DEVOTIONS - the big 'D' Word.  We would like to think that this kind of devotion to time with God is a thing of the legalistic past.  But the means of grace are not legalistic - they are, well, means of grace!  Grace does not remove the need for discipline and effort.  Grace removes the need for earning and shame and compels us to give more, do more, and work more towards becoming like Christ.  Grace pushes us to desire Christ more.  Time spent in worship is never a waste.    

Second Time + Knowledge of Christ = Maturity.  10 years ago I did not know what I know now.  I did not have the Westminster Shorter Catechism memorized.  I had not been able to outline the entire Bible chapter by chapter.  I did not know why justification and sanctification are inseparably connected.  I could not outline theological points from the Old and New Testament.  I learned those things by spending time in God's Word and in books written by dead guys that had matured in their faith.  And I grew.  It is great and necessary that you know that Jesus died for your sins.  But do you know why he had to die?  Do you know why it had to be Jesus?  Do you know the meaning of the Cross?  Do you know why Jesus had to rise from the dead?  Is it important for you to be able to defend the historicity of the resurrection?  Knowing what it means that Jesus is our prophet, our priest and our king is important.  Not so you can pass an ordination exam, but rather so you will grow in your knowledge of Christ and mature in your Christian walk.  Because as Christians mature so does their desire to reach others with the life-saving news of the Gospel.  Knowledge of Christ effects us in every area of our lives.  If you want to treat your wife better, grow in your knowledge of Christ.  If you want to be an excellent mom, grow in your knowledge of Christ.  If you want to crush your addiction to pornography, grow in your knowledge of Christ.  If you want to be able to talk to others about why you believe what you believe, grow in your knowledge of Christ.  

Finally, Time + the Work of the Holy Spirit = Growth.  We are all different.  Each one of us has different struggles, different skills, and different ways of doing life.  Some of us like to read.  Some of us like to reflect.  Some of us like to write, and some of us like to sing.  Some of us like to listen and some of us like to preach.  The point is that the Holy Spirit knows those differences and your walk will look different than others.  Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Comforter and Counselor.  What does that mean?  I have this app on my phone that I use when I am cycling or running.  It is connected to a bunch of my running and cycling friends.  It has this feature where my friends can see where I am, how fast I am going and how many miles I have put in during a workout.  But it also has a feature where my friends can type a message to me and the app will audibly relay it to me during my workout.  I find it incredibly encouraging when one of my friends types a message to me and the computer voice relays that message.  It might be something as simple as, "You're killing it Dan!  Keep going!"  You have no idea how those words push me to finish the workout and encourage me to push harder.  How much greater is the Holy Spirit who speaks through God's Word, through God's people, through Godly counsel, and through prayer?  The work of the Holy Spirit takes time and it is different for everyone.  The disciples were supernaturally gifted on the Day of Pentecost and preached the greatest sermons ever to be preached without one credit in a seminary class.  Of course, they spent three years with Jesus, but even that took incredible amounts of time and energy to bring those guys up to speed.  Our journeys are different and they take time.  

Stone's Throw Church is young.  We have to mature.  But in order to mature we must first be committed to Jesus more than anything else.  Being committed to Jesus means being committed to the time it takes for God to work in us and work in our church.  Do you want to see a church with a ministry to kids, youth and young people that is explosive?  The temptation is to hire someone to do the work for us.  But real lasting ministry takes commitment to Jesus, patience, and time equipping leaders with the Gospel.  Do you want to see a preaching ministry that changes lives and hearts?  It takes a commitment to Jesus and time spent in his Word.  Do you want to see worship that is unfiltered on Sunday mornings and throughout the week?  It doesn't require a rock star worship leader, but rather it takes a group of people who are committed to Jesus more than anything else.  Do you want to see a building go up in the center of town, churches planted throughout our region, men and women sent out to do Gospel ministry?  It takes a commitment to Jesus more than anything else.  

I have the long game in mind for Stone's Throw Church. I want to train men and women that God raises up - but that takes time and commitment to Jesus.  I am praying for people who are willing to put in the time and energy necessary to mature in their faith.  As this happens, the church will grow.  As the church grows, the Gospel will go out.  As the Gospel goes out, a community will be changed.  
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