Living Free in the Spirit of Christ

Free The Church


Good for Baby Christians

Mega Church Willow Creek

Published on: Jan 2, 2008

Through a link I found myself at a Willow Creek Church video site called Reveal. In it Greg Hawkins explains that as the Executive Pastor he keeps track of attendance.

Rick Warren, Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., is the author of the Purpose Driven Life, a book I found astounding. Not astounding because it was filled with great, mysterious secrets to Christian living, but because it was so extremely simple and basic. The material in this book was the same material that I was taught when I first came to Christ in the Assemblies of God church in Metairie, LA’s “Now What Class?” That was a class for brand new Christians, which I was, and laid the basic disciplines of walking with Christ. So this book amazed me that it was a coordinated national effort for congregations to read at the same time, and so many thought it was wonderful. How could so many Christians think a book that gives the basics for baby Christians be so wonderful?

Watching the video of Greg Hawkins really nailed it on the head. He explains that they wanted to know what was happening to Christians as they passed through their fellowship. He stated that they went beyond their fellowship to survey 31 other congregations. He indicated that their goal was to bring believers into Christian maturity, which he defined as loving God and loving others. He drew 5 circles of steps in his talk. The first circle are those exploring God. The second circle are those growing in God. The third circle are those getting close to God. The fourth circle are those centered in God. And the fifth circle was not in the progressions, but are those who are stalled in God.

His conclusion was that those people who are getting close to God and are centered in God tend to leave congregations. Those exploring, growing or stalled are staying and benefiting from their service. He expresses sadness that the mature leave.

His video explains the response to the Purpose Driven Life book. Those professional businesses that call themselves the “church”, and claim that attendance to their services are so vital to Christian maturity are only good for baby Christians, as Reveal, has demonstrated. To stay in those institutions will never bring Christian maturity.

Having left those institutions I see the benefit of those institutions. God uses them to get Christians on the path of walking with Him. However, to remain in those institutions alone, will not continue the path with God. Those who mature may maintain a tie with an institution, but their maturity has come because they are following God on their own, and may be doing mission work, “para-church” ministries, or something else that the Lord has led them into.

Those people may be attending an institution, but they are not growing because of it. Institutional churches (government churches as the Lord called them once to me) have their place for baby Christians, but not for mature Christians, unless they hire you and put you on staff so that you are part of their ministry team. But even that has downsides.

Postscript Jan. 3, 2008

In researching further this matter I came across an article by Christianity Today on the topic. They pointed out that discipleship only needs the basics of bible study, prayer, etc., which cost nothing compared to their multi million dollar expenditures. Since the article is a blog, readers have left their comments. Many comments encourage small groups, house churches and such as the path of maturity.

While the basics of Bible study, prayer, small groups are all good and useful, they are not the means of maturity. Maturity has only two elements. Doing the what the Lord and His Word directs (Heb. 5:14), and reckoning yourself dead (Rom. 6:11) by allowing the Holy Spirit to mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13).

The vast majority of Christian teaching denies the cross for fleshly efforts of self help. And this is the basis of many small groups and house church fellowships.

Lastly, it is not the will of God for us to camp out for decades in a community. He brought persecution upon the church to scatter it so that they would obey His injunction to go into all the world to share the gospel. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be a missionary traveling around the planet. But it does mean to be a missionary wherever the Lord leads you, whether that be the store, on the job, on vacation, in school – in short, wherever you are. Nor does that mean being a missionary in sharing the formula of salvation in 4 spiritual laws.

It means dying to self so that Christ may live through you wherever you are. The overflow of Christ in your life is the mission. To those that are lost we are a savor of life, and to those who know Christ we are a savor of death (2 Cor 2:16).

Postscript April 9, 2011
Willow Creek removed their video from the internet about a year ago.

Comments from Original Post

Amy
Submitted on: Jul 31, 2008

Alex,
I can really relate to your experience of realizing the “dumbed-downness” of most pastors messages in the modern church. And, I do remember when “The Purpose Driven Life” came out as well. It was a big hit. I even bought it and read it. Yet, I remember, when I did, thinking, “I already this stuff.” It’s no huge revelation.

In the last modern church I attended, although the pastor had a good heart, I found that his messages were becoming increasing juvinile. Quite honestly, I felt as though he was talking to the congregation as though we were kindergardeners. His points were just so utterly basic, I felt like he was feeding us highly watered down milk. I wanted (and still want always) substance, true meat.

I agree with something you mentioned on The God Journey Forum, and in one of your blogs. I think that the modern church is helpful only for baby Christians TEMPORARILY. I think they help Christians understand Gospel basics, OT stories to better understand the significance of Christ’s sacrifice, and the indwelling of Him as Spirit within us.

Having said that, I believe that once a person understands these basics, there’s a point where one should leave the modern church, begin walking freely according to the Spirit’s guidance in our hearts, and participate in the relationships Father puts in our lives, and live love to all.

Why? Because, the way modern “churches” (meaning=buildings where meetings/programs take place, not the Church Body which all believers belong to) function (and have been functioning since 200-300 AC) only hinder and hurt a true, loving, authentic, Spirit-guided and GROWING relationship with Father.

~Amy 🙂

Editor
Submitted on: Aug 1, 2008

Neil Cole wrote the book, “Organic Church” and a similar comment about pastors focusing on the difficult members of the congregation. Instead, organic ministry reaches out to those who hunger to know Jesus. Baby Christians hunger to know Jesus, but that hunger remains unsatisfied after a certain point of hearing the basics over and over again. I learned years ago that kids and adults will comprehend many difficult things if they exposed to them and given practical examples for understanding. Of course, no amount of hearing can ever replace the doing of the Word. And that is the main reason maturing believers leave, they have no opportunity to do the Word in those fellowships.

2 to “Good for Baby Christians”

  1. Joseph says:

    Alexander,
    I have read many of the posts on your site and they have truly been a blessing to me. With regard to this particular post, I have been attending what you would refer to as a “business church” for a couple of years or so. It is considered a “full gospel” church and the pastor has a strong Pentecostal background. I believe God has used this experience for a time to get me grafted into the body, built up and active in prayer & relationships with other believers, I have learned a lot, but for a while it has been getting stagnant. Much of the focus is legalistic and works oriented with little or no emphasis beyond the four walls. Even in my job as a door to door salesperson there have been many times where God has opened a door to pray for the sick or lead someone to Christ, but I have been growing from my own walk with God and learning how to walk in ministry from sources other than my local church (other ministries, teachings, etc.). I feel like God may be leading me elsewhere to learn how to grow and operate in the gifts & callings he has created me to walk in, but I am not sure what to do. I have developed a few good relationships with people in this church and that is good. Just not sure if it would be best to leave this church altogether, or to maintain some ties with it? Don’t want to isolate myself too much, but don’t want to go “church hopping” either. Any thoughts? Thanks

  2. Alexander says:

    Joseph,
    What you do will depend on how you see God leading you. Our lives in Christ is a confluence of spirits. Confluence means when two rivers join together, and theologically means our lives joining and flowing together with God’s life. God works with our wills, He does not replace our wills. Maturity is understanding that God’s will has our wills in His best interest.

    If I were to move to a new area, I would join a local assembly again. God works both in our hearts and through His body. The Lord networks us to other people through people. He may use one person to bring us to an assembly so we can meet some other person.

    We need to remember that God is not building our house, He is building His own house. We are His body on Earth, and He wants to connect specific members together. If you feel that He wants you to leave this assembly of saints, it is possible that you have already made connection to some there that will move you to the next step. He works with what we have, not what we don’t have.

    I don’t know what the Lord will have you do, but if it is from Him, you will have peace in what ever direction He leads you to go.



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