Ephesians 4:14-16; NRSV
We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. 15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.
I think it’s time to grow up. One of the things I’ve solidly learned in the last, say, 6 years of my life is that most of the people of God really are ready to go deeper in their knowledge of theology, scripture and doctrine. No, really- they really are. Now, a few brothers and sisters exist (in every tradition I suppose) who are content to stay theological children, seemingly comfortable in their theological puberty (though I doubt “comfortable” is the right word), and saying things like, “theological education has gotten us nowhere… it’s time to just chuck it and go back to Acts 2” or something. Such teaching sounds good and desirable… I mean, who wouldn’t want to get back to an Acts 2 kind of church, right?
The problem is, such teaching leaves people as theological children, immature in their faith regardless of how many ecstatic “experiences” they may have had. And though they may not realize it, the kind of emotionalism fostered in such teaching becomes addictive. It’s like a drug. People want the feeling of experiencing God’s presence in an emotionally charged gathering. Such an addiction must be fed, so folks look for more and different ways to generate that experience and the feelings it fosters. What winds up happening is such people, and their leaders, are “blown about by every wind of doctrine.” Emotionalism and anti-intellectualism are themselves doctrines. Bad ones. And it’s time for a lot of us to grow up.
How do we grow up? I think as pastors we have to be life-long learners, submitting our theology and doctrine to a mentor or two who have been around the block more than we have. Then we have to… HAVE. TO. Intentionally offer opportunities for our people to grow deeper. Don’t assume because someone is barely a high school graduate and not the “intellectual” type that they aren’t hungry to engage the doctrine of the Trinity, the Incarnation of Jesus, and the reality of the atonement. I’ve seen proof of the exact opposite in the last few years of my ministry. Quit allowing our people to live under the false assumption that those words are just for seminary ivory-tower folks. They’re not. They’re for regular old folks in our churches. Farmers and teachers and plumbers and doctors. They’re for retired truck drivers and grandmas and college students and realtors.
Me must, as an act of worship (and a lot can and must be said about that), teach our people what it means to speak truth in love. We must learn what it means for the church to be the body that embodies the Kingdom. What it means to grow up into Christ, and what it means for Christ to be the head. In short, we must make disciples, and at some point, our disciples have to progress from baby’s milk to solid food. It’s time to grow up.