Immaturity in American Evangelical Churches

Taigen Joos

white concrete house on green grass field under cloudy sky

Has it struck you in recent years that there seems to be a growing trend of spiritual immaturity in churches today? I know that is a rather broad brush stroke, but I just want to pose this idea for consideration from a few angles.

Immature Beliefs

Consider the various views about God:

  • God is the “big man upstairs,” someone who may exist, but is not really involved in our lives.
  • God is the cosmic “genie in the bottle,” who, if rubbed the right way, will give us what we want.
  • God is the spiritual “Pez dispenser,” who exists to make us happy and give us what we want.
  • God is the great “Therapist,” who helps us feel good about ourselves.

I’m sure you could add other ideas here, too. The point is that a robust, biblical view of God is becoming more scarce in our churches than it ought to be, which contributes to and produces a theological and spiritual immaturity. If our people do not think properly and believe proper truth of God, they will remain in a state of spiritual infancy.

Consider also the ongoing presence of religious pluralism. For many people, Roman Catholicism and Mormonism (for instance) are viewed as being different forms of orthodox Christianity. They may do some things differently, but they are “Christians” too, right? To put forth that they are not orthodox is almost a stake-worthy error—to some.

But this kind of theological weakness and immaturity needs to be grown out of, and quickly, if orthodox Christianity is to grow and Christian maturity is to occur.

Immature Behaviors

One’s beliefs determine one’s behaviors, and one’s behaviors reflect and even shape one’s beliefs. Consider the behaviors that are routinely practiced within the lives of those who consider themselves to be “born again Christians”: sexual promiscuity, rationalizing of sinful practices, unhealthy work ethics, glorying in immorality in entertainment, etc.

When a person has a weak view of God and biblical Christianity, they will not have a proper foundation upon which to build a life that honors God. And much of any talk about behavioral holiness (1 Peter 1:13–16) is heralded as legalism and externalism.

Christianity needs a return to foundational texts such as Romans 12:1–2 to form our thoughts about how our lives must be continually transformed by God and his Word, so that we can be less conformed by the philosophies and behavioral systems of the ungodly world around us.

Behavior matters. James talked about a robust Christianity that worked itself out in active ways to demonstrate the reality of saving faith. Our lifestyle lived in obedience to God and his Word gives validation to the saving faith that we proclaim to have (James 2:14ff).

Immature Loves

When a person has immature theology and practices an immature lifestyle, it only reveals immature loves.

Love of self is the dominating idol of many people, even within our churches. Jesus said we must deny ourselves and follow him (Matthew 16:24). People love self-preservation, self-awareness, and self-esteem, and these things are a detriment to their spiritual lives.

Many Christians are driven more by consumerism than they are service. What can the church offer? What programs or services are there? When we love creaturely things more than the Creator, we reveal ourselves to be in the kiddie pool of maturity.

This all matters because the more immature the church becomes, the less stable the church becomes. Stability comes through growth. When a church is filled with immaturity, it will struggle with the ability to make decisions that are guided by the Spirit of God. It will also struggle with being spiritually discerning when it comes to theological and social issues of the day.

The more immature the church becomes, the less stable the church becomes.

The church is called upon by the apostle Paul to be “no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:14–16).

May God help those in pastoral ministry to promote mature worship to help form Christian maturity in the lives of believers. And may God help all true believers to not be content in spiritual immaturity, but to practice the regular spiritual disciplines to grow deeper in Christian maturity, for the glory of God.

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