The Greatest Tragedy in the Christian Church
- Dr. Roger Barrier
Editor’s Note: Pastor Roger Barrier’s “Ask Roger” column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I believe in God. I believe Jesus as my savior and that he sacrificed himself for our sins. When I go to church, though, I find many people to be hypocritical. I know I’m not perfect and neither are they, but as a teenager (16) what can I do to show people I take this seriously? I pray and I’m starting to read the Bible for myself, but sometimes I find myself secluded from everyone. Like I’m different and even my friends, but I don’t want to be alone.
It sounds like to me that you’re in a church filled with spiritual children. No wonder your heart is spiritually aching. I’m so sorry. Unfortunately, you are exposed to people who choose to remain spiritual children instead of growing up to maturity as spiritual mothers or fathers. Try not to be disillusioned by them. Grieve for them.
You are well advised to look for others with hearts like yours — desiring to go on with Christ at any price. While the journey may at times be lonely and difficult, you are not the only one on the path. Pray and keep your eyes open to find spiritually like-minded followers of Christ. They are there.
A.W. Tozer wrote: “Every man or woman is just as spiritual as he or she wants to be.” Pray for God to make you a spiritual mother at any price. This is one prayer I guarantee He will answer.
I’ve decided in responding to your letter to include an overview of why so many Christians fail to mature in Christ as well as some of the distinguishing characteristics of the three main levels of maturity mentioned in the Scriptures.
Let me begin with an observation that I’ve observed during 40 years of leading seminars and disciple groups on the topic of spiritual growth:
Most Christians are not nearly as spiritual as they think they are.
Let’s imagine that I have 100 people in the class. During the initial session I ask everyone to close their eyes and raise their hands in turn to designate how far along they are in their spiritual journeys.
“How many consider yourselves to be spiritual children?” Twenty-five hands raise.
“How many consider yourselves to be spiritual young men or women?” Sixty-five will raise their hands.
“How many consider yourselves to be spiritual mothers or fathers?” Ten signify by raising theirs.
Five weeks later, after I have detailed the characteristics of each spiritual level, I repeat the test. Their perceptions have radically changes. “Raise your hands,” I say to them.
“Spiritual children?” Plus or minus sixty-three hands.
“Young men or women?” Plus or minus thirty-four hands.
“Spiritual mothers or fathers?” Three.
God intends to mature His children from infancy to full-blown spiritual maturity. He grieves when His children choose otherwise.
In Hebrews 5:11–14, the author was desperately concerned about young Christians who were lagging behind in their spiritual growth:
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.