A church growth expert once stated that out of over 3,000 Korean churches in the United States, more than 2,500 of them started as a result of division from another church. Why are there so many church divisions? I believe that it happens because church members are childish. And why are members so childish? Because their pastors make them that way.
When pastors hear of marital conflicts, they immediately rush to help them. When members skip church, pastors beg them to come back. They often don’t even mention the word “serving”, fearing that members may feel pressured and consequently leave the church. With this sort of coddling attitude, many church members cannot help but remain a baby.
One of the primary characteristics of babies is self-centeredness. When they are hungry, they cry, regardless of what their parents are doing. They have absolutely no patience! And they will continue crying until a bottle is put in their mouth. Many Christians are like that. They are self-centered and impatient, caring only about getting their own needs met immediately. So they quarrel a lot and get hurt easily.
To help new Christians mature, we must teach them to be self-sufficient, just as we do with our children. When our children are babies we do everything for them, and this is the right thing to do. But as they grow older, we allow them to be more independent. As they become teenagers, we give them more responsibilities along with their independence. When they enter college, we allow them to be completely responsible for their own future. Eventually, the tables turn and they take care of not only themselves but also their elderly parents.
So to help house church members mature, shepherds must not treat them like babies forever. At first, it is right to take care of new believers just as parents take care of their newborns, with unconditional, one-sided love and service. But in time, new believers must learn responsibility and independence as well. We must assign them small tasks, wean them from total dependency and help them learn to serve. And critically, we must help them grow in patience! When they ask us to visit them immediately or want to see us right away, sometimes it is best to ask them to wait, to set an appointment and meet at a later time. When they struggle spiritually, sometimes we need to stand aside and just pray for them so that they learn to fight their own battles. Eventually, they must become independent from their shepherd and become a co-worker. Otherwise the church will be filled with spiritual babies.
The shepherds’ mission is to develop lay leaders. We should never forget that the goal of the House Church ministry is to develop mature co-workers for Jesus. So let us work together to keep our new believers from forever being spiritual babies.
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