As I reach the half way point on my “Why church matters” series, I thought I would remind everyone why I’m doing this, especially for those who are reading this for the first time. Last semester, I took my students through this same series because I wanted them to understand why church should be an important aspect for any believer in Jesus Christ. And the best way I could do that was by sharing with them the big picture concepts of Church. So to show my students the big picture, I decided to take them through the book of Ephesians, because its where we get some of our greatest insights about the Church. I’ve learned that sometimes all we see are the little pictures that make up our churches, and not the big picture everyone needs to see. And as a Millennial, I know my generation needs to see the big picture of Church to truly commit to it. This entire series works together, so please check out the rest my blogs to see its entirety. Normally, all the blog categories are easy to find on someones homepage; however, on my page all the links to previous blogs are hidden at the very bottom. So if you need to catch up, I created a category page at the top of my home page, and you’ll find a link to all of my previous blog entries.
How do you know when you’re an adult? This is a question that plagues many high school graduates, college students, and college grads. I know first hand because I struggled with this question up until two years ago, when I turned 25. This question comes and goes, and it usually rears its head when (a) when you graduate from high school and you start to make your first adult decision, but its quickly shot down because your parents said no; (b) when you’re close to graduating college and your parents keep asking you “what are you going to do with your life;” (c) in the middle of the night when you’re pondering (and solving) all of life’s mysteries, or (d) when you finally arrive by graduating college, getting married, having a child, buying a home, and finally having a full-time job that supports all of this, which was my case. The truth is “when do I become an adult” is a question that plagues Millennial’s, and we may not realize it, but this question is what drives everything we do. However, what the world defines as adulthood doesn’t cut it, and it actually leaves us more emptied than filled, which is what happened to me. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and in fact, in Ephesians 4:1-16 Paul gives us a better way to define adulthood.
After Paul finishes his thoughts on the Churches job to answer the great mystery (3:1-13), he prays for the believers at Ephesus (3:14-21), which launches into his next thoughts on being unified in the body of Christ. Community is a major aspect of the Christian life, and sadly, we have taught more about the individuals that make up the body of Christ, than the entire community that expresses the fully complete body, which is what makes a difference in the world. This is why Paul encourages the believers to be unified as one. So how can we all become unified in the body of Christ? Paul says this is achieved because we’ve all put our faith into the completely unified God, who is expressed in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and is over all and in all everything, which gives us all one hope of salvation that is outwardly expressed through our baptism (v.4-6). Paul believes so much in us being united as one that he clearly expresses it as one of our callings in Christ (v.1-3).
Paul says its our faith in God that gives us the capacity to be unified as one, but for the body to function as one, we all must use the grace God has measured out for each us according to his will (v.7). The idea of grace in this passage are the free gifts God equips us with to build up the body of believers. This is why Paul acknowledges apostles, prophets, evangelist, shepherds, and teachers, because all of these are gifts that work together to equip other saints, so everybody can become unified through the knowledge of God, which brings us into mature manhood (v.11-13). Becoming mature believers is so important to Paul that he has to give a description of the consequences of what happens when believers don’t grow up in Christ. He says if people don’t mature in Christ they are like little children, who are tossed to and fro by the waves of every bad doctrine created by deceitful humans (v.14). We need to understand the difference between child like faith, and childish faith. Child like faith keeps us trusting in Jesus and what he has to say for our lives, childish faith causes us to fall away from Christ because we refuse to accept what he has to say for our lives. Confusing the two is what gets many believers into trouble, and sadly, I see more believers, who would rather have a childish faith than a child like one.
I love the image Paul uses because I live in a city by the beach, and I remember the first time I took my daughter to the one. She was two years old and she was so excited to jump into the water; however, she never knew about the waves, and the first time she got hit by one she was thrown right off her feet. The rest of the time at the beach, I literally had to hold her the entire time so she wouldn’t drown. I will admit, as a daddy, I loved every moment of holding my little girl and protecting her from the waves, but I know it can’t always be that way, and truthfully, I don’t want it to be that way. If my daughter is 15 years old and still has to hold on to me for dear life in the shallow part of the ocean because she may drown, I have failed her as a dad, because I never taught her how to swim. I don’t want her to stay in the shallow water always trying to hang onto me for dear life because I want her to stand next to me, so we can go deeper into the ocean. I really believe Christ wants to stop clinging to him because we are afraid to drown, and start using what he’s taught us so we can stand with him. This doesn’t mean we’re no longer dependent on Christ, because sometimes there are waves that are just too big for us, and in those moments we can hold onto to Christ as he takes the brunt of the wave for us. Sadly, we as believers have adopted this idea that its ok to be tossed back and forth by waves because we’re being “dependent on Christ.” And if being knocked down by waves all the time is your idea of dependency, then you’ve missed the point, and its time for you to maturing in Christ so you can stand with him.
Paul ends his thoughts on what happens when we mature in Christ. When everyone matures in Christ, our churches will grow. Paul says if everyone is willing to grow in every way into Christ, the body will be joined together because the church is equipping every member to function properly. This is important because when the body is functioning properly, its being built in love (v.16), and when people see the love we have for each other, they will want to be a part of the body of Christ. The truth is big massive events are not the best way to bring people to the love of Jesus Christ. The best way we can bring people to Christ is when we grow in our love for him, each other, and our willingness to use our gifts to serve the body. When we do this, we will never have to question if our church grew the right way.
Finally, church matters because it has the ability to define adulthood, and help adults to continue maturing as one. I believe churches need to stop doing cheesy high school graduation ceremonies that doesn’t define adulthood, and instead, develop a true rite of passage ceremony that acknowledges high school graduates as adults, capable to serve in every capacity of the body of believers. And just saying high school graduates are adults in front of a crowd doesn’t cut it either. Their adulthood has to be accepted by the community, and the way it is accepted is when they become one with a church body, grow in their knowledge of God , and use their gifts to build up the church. All three of these components have to take place for their adulthood to be accepted. Sadly, churches don’t do this at all, and usually drop the ball when it comes to ministering to the 20 something crowd. As a student minister, I hope to change this because I know how important it is to Millennial’s. So if you’re a 20 something, who wonders when they’ll be an adult, instead of immersing yourself in what the world defines as adulthood, try joining a local church and becoming one with that body of believers, grow in your knowledge of Christ there, and use your gifts in any capacity to build up the church, and someone will acknowledge your adulthood status. It will take time, but trust me, you will be accepted as an adult. And if you’re already an adult and want to mature as one, do the same thing, and you’ll become wise beyond your years.