By Erin Bird
Missed any of the previous three entries in this series? Quickly catch up on the Riverwood blog.
I love kids. And not just my own kids - but kids in general. I love their enthusiasm. I love watching them learn. I love their energy. I have enjoyed interacting with kids pretty much since I was in high school. In fact, when LeAnn and I got married, we had barely said "I do" when I admitted I was ready to become a dad. And I hope one day I get the joy of being a grandpa. Suffice it to say: I think kids are great.
However, I don't have a rosy view of kids. I do not think they are perfect and can do no wrong. I realize kids, as they are learning, will make mistakes. I realize they will have meltdowns. I realize they will (in some moments) lie to my face. And they might haul off and hit their sibling without cause.
And yet, I still love kids. When my oldest was only 2 1/2 and LeAnn was pregnant with our second child, a stranger at a church conference (who was a bit older than I and further along in fatherhood) gave me parenting advice: "Enjoy every stage they are in - all of it: the good moments and the tough moments. Because it all goes by way too fast."
While I tried to take the stranger's advice home, I have also tried to apply it to ministry. When a person becomes a follower of Christ, they do not jump to "Complete Spiritual Maturity" in an instant. They first become a spiritual infant as we talked about last week. But as they begin to understand more about faith in Jesus, they move to "knee deep" in the river of Christ and become a spiritual child.
What a great place to be! A child isn't nearly as dependent upon their parent as an infant. A child actually begins to contribute to the family, whether helping put the clean dishes away or picking up their toys in the bedroom. Spiritual childhood is a stage where great growth can occur.
But it is also a stage in which that many Christians get stuck. I've known some Christians who have been church attenders for 50 years, and yet they are still in spiritual childhood primarily because of the keyword that defines this stage: self-centeredness.
Let's all admit: not matter how "mature" you or I might be, each of us is selfish. Some of us might be more self-centered than others (don't ask me to share my ice cream!), but deep down, each of us is self-centered to some degree.
But this focus on "me" is at the front of thought in a spiritual child. For instance, a spiritual child might...
Therefore, a big part of spiritual growth is to move from self-centeredness to Jesus-centeredness. Which means it is time to take an honest look inward...
As I said last week, in order for you to grow to your next stage, you have to be honest about your current stage. So let me ask you this week: are you a spiritual child?
And just like I said last week when talking about spiritual infancy, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING A SPIRITUAL CHILD. Most of you reading this have been spiritual children, many still there in this stage. (To be honest, I believe the large majority of American Christians are in this stage of spiritual childhood. So it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is simply a stage I don't want you stuck in.)
So be honest with yourself. Read through the following statements, for they are common thoughts many spiritual kids have. If you recognize some of these thoughts in yourself, then pay attention to the recommendations which follow.
If any of that feels familiar in your own thinking, then perhaps you are currently a spiritual child. So what should you do?
First, if you are a spiritual child, there is an underlying assumption you are already doing the steps laid out last week for those who want to grow out of spiritual infancy: being discipled and engaging in spiritual disciplines.
With that said, here are two steps you can take to help yourself mature into becoming a spiritual young adult.
Just like a child in the physical realm learns so much about life through their family, spiritual children learn through being part of the church family.
While Sundays are a good time to connect, far better is connecting through a Growth Group. Sunday mornings are like a fun, meaningful, weekly family reunion, but our Growth Groups are the supper table where conversation goes deeper, prayers are more personal, learning more customized, and laughter more genuine.
So get into a Growth Group this fall and do whatever you can to keep that time slot clear in your schedule to connect with others through prayer and Bible study. Just as kids are easily distracted, don't allow your schedule to distract you from the more important task of spiritual growth.
Another key to move from spiritual childhood to spiritual adulthood is to give of your FIST, your Finances, Influence, Skills & Time. When you give of your FIST, you combat the self-centeredness that lurks inside. Because rather than keeping these things for yourself, you are giving them away as an act of worship and as a way to bless others.
So give some time to your neighbor and don't expect anything in return. Give some money to help pay someone's medical bills or help Riverwood purchase our building. Give your skills to help the Worship Team or a local nonprofit. Give some of your influence in Kids Creek or on a local board. Open up your FIST to bless others.
Let me close with a similar sentiment to last week's closing: if you recognize some spiritual childlike thoughts within yourself, do not be embarrassed. Instead, embrace the stage you are in, and eagerly seek to grow. Be heartened to know that you can grow so much more rapidly in your spirit than you can physically. Which means if you really give yourself to this process, it won't take a decade to move to the next stage like it does for a kid. It could take just a couple years or even less for you to mature into a spiritual young adult.
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