After a few years though, things change. Oh, children at any age can be cute and lots of fun, but if your child is three years old, or twenty three, or sixty three, and still acting like a newborn it won’t be considered cute. Something is wrong. Humans are meant to grow and mature. This is true physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The Bible is filled with passages that call us to spiritual maturity:
We must try to become mature and start thinking about more than just the basic things we were taught about Christ (Hebrews 6:1).
So come on, let’s leave the preschool finger-painting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ (Hebrews 6:1 MSG, see also Ephesians 4:13; Colossians 1:9, 28; Hebrews 12:1-2; James 1:4, et al). Christians are called to keep growing in our faith. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect (thankfully), but God does want us to keep growing. We want the same thing, don’t we? We want to keep growing in our faith, but let’s be honest. Not everyone keeps growing.
There are many reasons why people stop growing in faith. I recently read an article that highlights one reason that is pertinent to Sharon – how we deal with conflict. (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/may/29.43.html – let me know if you can’t get this article. I’ll make a copy for you.) The article talks about the radical individualism of our culture, which is significantly different from the community/family emphasis of the Biblical world. The article has two stories which illustrate this – one from the movie Titanic, the other an amazing and true story from the early church. (Okay, I admit it. I’m trying to tempt you to read the whole article.) One paragraph in the article grabbed my attention:
Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. Persons who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding. And they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to fellow human beings. This is especially the case for those courageous Christians who stick it out through the messy process of interpersonal conflict. Long-term relationships are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life. People who stay grow. And people who stay help others to grow as well. (Joseph H. Hellerman)
Over the years Sharon Church has had its share of conflict – every church has. I’ve heard stories of conflicts at Sharon, between various members and with several different people on staff, including at least three situations with three different pastors. The most recent conflict led to the pastor, the staff and many members leaving. For the most part that conflict seems to be healed, but the scars are still there. Some of the pain is still there. I’ve even heard some people talk about others in the church they still can’t tolerate. There are still relationships that have not been healed.
The question I want to lift up is this: As Sharon Church moves into its third century will people deal with conflict in a different manner? Thanks to the work of the Pastor Nominating Committee, a new pastor is about to be called to Sharon. This new pastor will bring a unique style, new ideas, suggested changes and a variety of other situations that have the potential to create more conflict. In any relationship conflict is likely to happen. Can and will Sharon find new ways to deal with conflict, that will lead to spiritual growth, rather than hurt feelings and people leaving?
I invite you to join me after worship on June 4 (in Room 202) as we look at a Biblical Model for Conflict. Do this for the sake of Sharon Church. Do it for your own sake, so that you can keep growing in your faith and become the person God created you to be.