Christian Maturity & the Call of the Elder

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 Yesterday, we installed new officebeaers in the church. It is a time that forces me to think once again about the fundamentals of leading the congregation. Part of that reflection was looking once again at the passage from Ephesians 4. Another part was listening to Dr. Henry Cloud and Donald Miller talking about Christian Growth on the DVD Convergence.

Ephesians begins with a song of praise, celebrating what God has done in Christ. As we enter chapter 2:8 we are lead to confess that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. The great divide between Jew and Gentile is overcome by Christ and in Christ. The power of Christ and wonder of grace leads Paul to the great prayer in Eph. 3:

16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

And so begins Chapter 4. It is clear that leadership is provided by God so that the prayer might become a reality in people’s lives. Paul desires a maturity in Christ. Clearly, to be filled with the fullness of God requires that the love of Christ shapes our very being. Jesus makes it clear that this includes loving your enemies and forgiving those who sin against us. Mature Christian living is not just a matter of experiencing Christ’s forgiveness but being transformed in Christ’s love to reflect the love of God for his world. Elders are agents of such transformation.

That brings me to the video conversation between Miller and Cloud. Dr. Cloud says that “immaturity is when we ask life to meet our demands. Maturity is when we meet the demands of life.” To be mature in Christ means that the patterns of Christ’s life shape the patterns of our life. I found the conversations in Convergence: Personal Growth helpful and will be using them in Elder’s training.

These definitions of maturity and immaturity are helpful in another way. Too often the church has been seen as the place where we meet the demands of the members. People come to church – in our consumerist culture – expecting that their desires will be met in one way or another. The desires may be ill defined. Sometime people may dislike our consumerist culture . But somehow we are infected by it. Like the common cold it influences each person in the pew. When members ask the church to meet their demands and the elders respond by meeting them, we just may be fostering immaturity. On the other hand, when elders invite members to rise to the challenges before us with Christ-love, we encourage maturity. Having an understanding of maturity can help us focus our ministries in that celebrates the transforming power of Christ and his gifts in our lives.

May God bless your ministry as it seeks the “fullness of God” in the church.

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Thanks for the challenge - I'm a new elder and am always looking to learn how to respond with wisdom and maturity myself. Now I see that I should turn my focus also to cheering members on "to rise to the challenges before us with Christ-love." That is a quote to pass on to my small group friends and Christian email buddies.