Babies, Grown-ups & Pastoral Change
By Donald Shoemaker
(First written on Sunday, July 15, 2012)
Spiritual babies in the church will have loyalties to certain people and groups and what they represent. Some will look to the Senior Pastor, others maybe to the youth or music ministries, others to the person who brought them to Christ or deeply touched them some other way.
Nothing wrong with that, so long as this baby feature is coming from a baby. But it should not continue on in the spiritual journey into the time when we ought to be grown up. A spiritual grown-up will look past individuals and groups to see the whole church and how each of these leaders and all these groups contribute to the whole. A Christian stuck in spiritual babyhood may still cling to the ministry of an individual and fuss or even fade away when that individual isn’t there as before.
As a “rule of thumb,” if one is still devoted to certain individuals or groups and not to the whole church after three years along the spiritual journey, spiritual growth has been stunted and babyhood has continued too long. I take this from what Paul expected of the Corinthian church—and how it had fallen short—when he wrote1 Corinthians (1:10-17 and 3:1-15 especially).
Thus, now six months into my post-senior-pastor mode, I take great delight and satisfaction to see how church life at Grace Community Church of Seal Beach, California is flourishing.
Contrary to some expectations and models, our church shows itself grown up in the face of pastoral changes. It isn’t hanging on to the pastor’s shirttail after 28 years of a good shepherd/sheep relationship. It is willing to support new leaders recognizing, after all, we’re all on the same team with the same goals. Its willingness to avoid petty quarreling and pull for the good of the church and look beyond this-or-that pastoral individual is seen in the attendance, enthusiasm, giving, service, dedication and overall spirit of the church!
Ponder some words from the Apostle Paul’s valuable lesson (1 Corinthians 3:1-9 New International Version):
“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly —mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men?
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field…”
All church leaders are “servants” fulfilling God’s assignments and working for a common purpose. God, not any man, makes the church grow healthfully. This is how I prayed and worked for it to be. This is what I saw as I observed at church this Sunday. Let these good times roll!