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Immature Christians get sidetracked on secondary issues, consultant says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Churches filled with immature believers get sidetracked with disagreements and secondary issues, failing to focus on their mission of reaching people and helping them grow in their faith, a Christian education consultant told participants in a session during the National Urban and Multicultural Leadership Conference, June 29-July 3 at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
“Dealing with spiritual infants takes a lot of time,” Elgia Wells, director of black church development for LifeWay Christian Resources (formerly Sunday School Board) of the Southern Baptist Convention, said. “Children are dependent. A church with a lot of immature Christians will work a pastor to death. One of the difficulties with spiritually immature people is their inability to handle disagreements.”
Instead, Wells advocated a comprehensive plan of Christian education “to bring believers to maturity in Jesus Christ.”
Noting Jesus spent three and a half years investing in the spiritual growth of his 12 disciples, Wells said “the process will not happen rapidly. It takes time and it takes a plan.”
With a plan in place, it must be clearly communicated and understood, he said.
“A lot of people define Christianity as simply attending church on Sunday,” Wells said. Growth toward Christian maturity should include, in addition to membership and regular attendance, small-group learning, discipleship development and involvement in ministry and evangelism.
He listed four stages of spiritual development: infancy, maturing disciple, reproducing disciple and kingdom builder.
In too many Southern Baptist churches today, education takes place only in a large-group setting and focuses only on visual and verbal learning, he said, noting, in contrast that Jesus focused on small groups and used interaction, questions, word pictures and application as he taught.
At its most effective level, learning must include direct, purposeful, personal experience, Wells said.
The foundation of a church’s Christian education ministry must be ongoing, growth-oriented Bible study. He cited seven characteristics:
— functions as the church organized to reach, teach and provide pastoral care;
— focuses primarily on adults with the awareness that as adults are reached, their children will come;
— strong pastoral leadership and promotion;
— functions as the church coming together on Sunday morning for Bible study;
— gives priority to growth planning;
— emphasizes outreach; and
— emphases teacher preparation.
Even with these priorities, Wells said “all your work can be sabotaged if you allow boring classes.”
Overall, Wells said the goal of Christian education must be changed lives.
“Unless a person is changed, his actions won’t change,” he said.
The National Urban and Multicultural Leadership Conference was sponsored by LifeWay’s multicultural leadership department.

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  • Linda Lawson