Reference to the African proverb is intentional: It Takes a Village to Raise a Child.
Exposure to the insights and experiences of many adults enriches the setting in which children learn about themselves and the world around them. It also multiplies the number of “eyes” watching and encouraging the good behavior of the child.
But my focus is not on raising young children. It is on raising adult believers, many of whom are still spiritual children. The sharing within a fellowship of Christ-followers is essential to their continued growth. It takes a fellowship of the Spirit to raise a believer.
Paul wanted to address the Corinthians as “spiritual” but couldn’t because they were still mostly in their natural “fleshly” nature. Most had been Christ-followers for only several years. They were still feeding on milk because they were not ready for the solid food he was about to give them in his letters (1 Corinthians 3; 1-4). With example after example, he taught them what a transformed life and community looks like.
“To raise’” someone is an Old English word that started out referring to buildings, like a barn raising. But it is also applied to building up or growing people. To raise children makes sense. Raising adult believers is more complicated and an even greater challenge.
My naïve assumption was that the “solid food” for Christians is greater depth in understanding God’s word. That’s true, of course. There is plenty of knowledge about Old and New Testament writings to absorb. But follow Paul’s reasoning as he addressed the troubled Corinthian congregation. We can see that the solid food is how to apply those truths to the changed life believers are being transformed into. For that purpose, examples from the everyday life of believers around us are basic.
The Christian congregations we know in modern America are a complicated set of relationships. Most visible is the formal organization of named leaders, like pastor or teacher, and scheduled groups, like Sunday school classes.
But in a healthy church, these organized efforts are only a fraction of the relationships going on among participants. You see informal relationships after the service is over and participants find friends to talk with. It also includes the relationships participants have with people beyond the fellowship as they model and share their Christian life where they work or in their neighborhood.
Let’s give a name to the totality of relationships going on among participants in a congregation. It is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Such fellowship is the hallmark of the Spirit’s work, according to Paul: “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Peter, too, used the milk analogy. But for him “spiritual milk” is positive: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter2:2).
To taste something is to experience it. In the original language, the word for salvation includes the concept of healing. That’s the word used to describe the healings Jesus did. Experience how good it feels to have the Spirit at work transforming your life.
“Grow up in your salvation” is a powerful concept. It is healing in this life, not just eternal salvation. The challenge is to keep growing in it. Wherever you are in your new life in Christ under the power of the Spirit, keep growing. The best is yet to come.
The job of a Christian congregation is to raise adult believers. Some call this discipleship, but too frequently that term does not acknowledge enough how this is accomplished through the Spirit’s work. The Spirit’s workshop is believers gathered around God’s word sharing what it means in their life.
Tim Johnson says
Thanks for the honesty. I am a Lutheran pastor and I have to ask myself, “Would I come back to this service? Are we/I truly being fed by the Spirit of God and this bringing refreshment for our soul and our very lives. Can I take it back home and seek Gods guidance for my life?” I hope so, or I’m something other than what God called me to be. God help us pastors!
David Luecke says
That’s always a good question. Would I come back for this kind of service? When Royal Redeemer started its contemporary service it was frankly bad. I would not have come back for more. It took a change in music leadership to become really good. We have been at it for thirty years now. It is really good now.
At Easter I looked at the service at the D.C. cathedral. I wouldn’t come for more. There was not any “heart” to it.
Mike Knauff says
I’ve been to many a 5th grade concert that was bad beyond belief but had a lot of heart (spirit) to it. I do not “long” to attend another 5th grade concert but I would go again knowing the spirit of community I would find there in the rooting for these neophytes, the common ground I share with parents/grandparents, etc.
I appreciate and prefer excellence over mediocrity… as I suspect do most people. However there needs to be a similar focus on the passion and spirit of the performance and connection to the community beyond just its excellence. (I suspect this lack of community connection is why your experience of the excellent DC cathedral Easter worship was blah)
The problem is expecting everyone and everything to “magically” arrive at excellence as well as instantly have a connection to the community. When it comes to our walk with Christ or our worship experiences, who gets to set the bar, hand out the grades, pick apart the performance? Who determines whether a small community is bad or a large community good or vice versa? Those that have “arrived?” “Those who think they stand let them take heed lest they fall” Indeed growth in our relationship with Christ is good and the ultimate goal. But like all growth, spiritual growth is difficult, messy, and try our best- unpredictable (ask any farmer/gardner). Perhaps growing our relationship with Christ is best done as a village simply because that calls forth the vastness of Christian experience and hopefully builds the widest consensus of Christian faithfulness without prescribing a “one size fits all.” Perhaps that’s why we wish others “The fellowship of the Holy Spirit.”
David Luecke says
I am not sure what point you are reacting to. Personally I love excellence in music. We have a season subscription to the Cleveland Orchestra and in my car I listen only to opera or symphonic music. My point is that all Christians start as beginners and there can be lots of growth in Christ-like living over a lifetime, bringing more of the benefits of the Spirit’s fruit. So you see any problem with expecting movement from confirmed faith to convicted faith? Isn’t that a worthwhile objective for pastoral ministry in a congregation?
Terry Graunke says
Whatever good there is in this piece, and I assure you there is some, is overwhelmed by the bad grammar. Twice sentences end in a preposition when clearly indefinite pronouns could avoid this. Makes it seem like your seminary didn’t care about the basics. Also makes it seem like maybe I should just pass by this because rather simple grammatical rules are ignored. I’d get someone to preview these before I posted them.
David Luecke says
Sorry you are still following the old rules about split infinitives. Because infinitives are one word in Latin, the old understanding was that two English equivalent words had to be together. We are speaking English now, and in English, the flow is often better splitting the two.