And what dawned on me was that a great many of these people who had been raised on Scripture, prayer, and Sunday School lacked any kind of cohesive Christian worldview. They knew dozens, maybe hundreds, of Bible verses but could not connect them to larger themes or ideas. The problem is that when ideas about sex or greed or whatever are not grounded in a larger framework, it’s easy to simply discard them. “We don’t practice animal sacrifice as Leviticus tells us, so why should I take what it has to say about sex seriously?” So the minute that a younger Christian faces cultural pressure because of their beliefs, the inclination is to ask “How important is this particular belief?” rather than “Is my entire framework for living going to collapse if I change?” And what I saw was that despite all the Bible study and whatnot, the culture won almost every time.
When it comes to evangelicalism, the problem in many cases is the idea that the goal is to get to Heaven. When you think like that, theology that says that salvation is irrevocable tends to make people think “after you believe, nothing you do matters.”
What people need to understand is that maturation matters; and it will have eternal consequences, including influencing others’ salvation, and the depth of one’s relationship with God, both now and in eternity.
Using human logic, it might seem that the goal ought to be to get the minimum out to people necessary for them to believe and get saved and that will lead the largest number to God; that will not actually in the long run make the most believers.
I think the best way to understand maturity is that while in a practical sense, we are to be increasingly conformed to Christ’s image, what is happening underneath the surface is more that we are taking the new creation in us that is conformed to Christ’s image and letting it grow, develop, and dominate us.
In other words, one issue is that we think of it as if we are slowly growing closer to Christ’s image until we are totally conformed. The problem with this is that we are all at different stages of maturity when we die, so this means either that the whole process was a waste because we go from whatever percent we were at to 100% upon death, we cannot die until we have reached conformity, or that there has to be some sort of purgatorial process to get us the rest of the way before we get to Heaven.
I think what happens is that the new creation is all that survives our physical death, so the goal is to develop and grow that new creation as much as possible. In other words, maturity is not so much conforming a greater percentage of a fixed quantity to Christ, it is about taking that which is conformed and increasing the quantity.
The first problem, as I understand it, with Elijah’s church is that they are not attempting to grow and edify those who are saved. They want to celebrate what Christ has done for them initially, but they are not focused on what more he can and wants to do for them; and what he wants them to do for him with what he has done for them.