Are We As Mature As We Think We Are?

Eric Bryant

It is time to take personal responsibility.

There comes a time in our lives (and it is sooner than we think), that we need to choose to move forward. We know all that we need to do, and it is time to do it. Yet so many of us choose to remain trapped as victims.

One of the more common excuses we use in the American church, sounds something like one of the following:

  • "I'm not ready."
  • "I don't know enough."
  • "I need someone to help me grow."
  • "I'm not being fed."

Sometimes, when we feel this way, we decide to bounce from book to book and from small group to small group and from church to church. As a result, we move laterally rather than moving forward. We need to learn to feed ourselves.

Several years ago, Deborah, the kids, and I went to our favorite yogurt place in Pasadena, CA called 21 Choices. It is a lot like Amy’s Ice Cream or Coldstone Creamery. You choose your flavor and then ask them to mix in different toppings. I usually chose some sort of combination of chocolate ice cream with chocolate chip cookie dough and peanut butter. They mix it up and then let you sample it before you pay to make sure they did it right.

On this particular day, I wasn’t paying attention or was distracted by my kids who were about 2 and 5 at the time. I don’t know what happened exactly. I just remember the woman who worked there working on my order and then reaching over the counter with the spoon in her hand. Without hesitating or thinking I just leaned up on my tip toes and took a bite. Rather than grabbing the spoon, I let a stranger feed me! She turned beet red and my kids looked so ashamed. Deborah just started laughing!

What an absurd moment! Yet how often do we let other people feed us, when we are entirely capable of feeding ourselves?

It is cute to feed babies, but it becomes more annoying when they are toddlers. Once they are children, it becomes a non-issue, but it is tragic when an adult needs to have someone feed him. I should clarify a possible misconception. I absolutely believe that pastors need to be more focused and more effective at equipping and serving their people. I also believe more of us are called to serve as pastors, shepherds, and spiritual mentors than we might expect.

Consider this passage from Ezekiel:

 Ezekiel 34:1-5
1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd....

Some of us are thinking: "That's right! The shepherds in my life have not been there for me! I have been abandoned and neglected!"

Have you ever considered that others are looking to you as their shepherd?

Your children, your spouse, your roommates, your friends, your employees, your co-workers, your neighbors, those in your church all need you. Some pastors are paid to equip. However, most pastors are not paid, and their role is no less valuable or important - especially to those they oversee and serve. For some of us, we’ve heard the passage that describes the conversation between Jesus and Peter when Jesus tells Peter 3 different times to “feed my sheep.”

We hear that and think: “Yeah, Peter, feed your sheep! I need someone like Peter in my life to feed me! I need a church, a small group, a mentor to feed me! I need other people to care for me!”

After reading this story in John 21, Erwin McManus, a mentor in my life then asked this question:

"When Jesus says to Peter 'if you love me, go feed my sheep.' Why do we always see ourselves as the sheep? Why don’t we see ourselves as Peter?"

You are more ready and prepared than you could imagine.

Maturity does not mean knowing about the Bible. Maturity means obeying what we know from the Bible. Maturity means being proactive.

We can experience a life beyond our wildest imagination when we maximize who we were created to be. Jesus’ parable of the soils points out that we struggle to become who we were created to be when we have a hardened heart, a shallow faith, or find ourselves trapped among the thorns. If we can avoid these pitfalls, we will be fruitful.

Dr. Eric Michael Bryant has a new project that just released called A Fruitful Life: Becoming Who You Were Created To BeEric serves at Gateway Church in Austin, and previously he served at Mosaic in Los Angeles. His previous book is called Not Like Me: A Field Guide for Influencing a Diverse WorldEric coaches church planters and campus pastors, teaches on Post Christian Ministry, and leads a cohort for a Doctorate of Ministry in Missional Effectiveness through Bethel Seminary where he earned his Doctorate of Ministry in Entrepreneurial Leadership. More on these opportunities can be found here.

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