“His purpose was to equip God’s people for the work of serving and building up the body of Christ until we all reach the unity of faith and knowledge of God’s Son. God’s goal is for us to become mature adults – to be fully grown, measured by the standard of the fullness of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:12, 13 (Common English Bible)
Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life is a passionate spiritual autobiography by Lauren F. Winner. Here is the story of a young woman, the child of a Jewish father and a lapsed Southern Baptist mother, who chooses to become an Orthodox Jew. Yet, following her faith decision, Winner experiences what she describes as an inescapable courtship by “a very determined carpenter from Nazareth.” 1 She eventually coverts to the Christian faith and begins looking for a church in New York City.
As so many do, Winner writes that she church-hopped, sometimes visiting as many as three churches on a single Sunday. With each church she manufactured good reasons never to return to any of them. In her book she courageously acknowledges that the real reason for not returning to any of them was that she did not want to do the hard, intimate work of actually becoming part of a church. Anonymity was attractive; skirting any responsibility that may come with membership was more attractive still.
Apparently that “determined carpenter from Nazareth” remained unsatisfied. Church-hopping eventually wore Winner down and she grew increasingly dissatisfied with not being expected anywhere on Sunday morning. With the smallest nudge by a campus chaplain she commits to one church.
Winner’s story is not unique. Many people today experience the courtship of that very determined carpenter from Nazareth. Yet they fear making a commitment to a particular church. The reasons are many. Some fear the claim such a commitment may make on their lifestyle – both financially and time. Others are simply exhausted by life and seek only to restore their spirit by beautiful, compelling worship without further demands upon them. Whatever the reason, they pop in and out of worship hoping to preserve anonymity.
The difficulty with this approach to faith is that it is less than what God’s desires for us, much less. What the Apostle Paul wants to make clear in these few sentences from Ephesians is that God’s desire for us is more than spiritual refreshment. God’s desire is spiritual maturity. And the standard measurement for that maturity is Jesus Christ. Pay attention to what Paul says here. God’s method for making that a reality is for us to settle into a particular church and participate in some ministry. It is by our own engagement in ministry – the work of the church – that God completes our growth in Jesus Christ.