26 September, 2012

A Mature Christian teaches?

Simone has been talking about characteristics of a mature believer over on her blog. One full-time minister commented that a characteristic of a mature believer is "teaching". He clarified, "I don't mean teaching in the "standing up the front" sense - I mean teaching in the older man/older women teach younger men/younger women sense..." Someone else clarified his position in saying, "one would expect a mature disciple of Christ to be a disciple-making disciple."

I've been surprised at my emotional reaction to this little discussion. Perhaps because the word "teaching" has layers of meaning, and some emotionally laden. Especially as I remember how limited I've felt in some churches regards how women were made to feel in the few roles we were allowed to take on. How, especially as a young adult, leaders didn't allow me to take on much responsibility at all, therefore infusing me with the feeling that therefore I mustn't be competent or responsible enough.

I've also been in various circumstances over many years that have limited, I perceive, my opportunities to teach. Think: inability to speak Japanese, full-time Mum with demanding children, ill health, small country church with no need for my abilities besides as an occasional musician, large Japanese church with no need for my skills besides music, temporarily in Australia as a "travelling circus" of a missionary unable to regularly contribute at any church or with any individual etc. 

Some of these are unusual situations, but I think that many mature believers find themselves, at various times, in situations where they are unable to teach anyone. Of course the above mentioned full-time minister covered this by clarifying further, by saying "desire to teach".

Formal opportunities for me to teach have been limited. And I don't believe that teaching is my special gifting. But that doesn't mean I'm not a mature Christian.

I've never been formally discipled. I've never formally discipled someone. I don't think I'd know where to start. Does that mean I'm not a mature Christian?

However, probably (though I'm not consciously aware of it), I probably "teach" people. Via my writing, via my relationships, by example, by this blog? J, mentioned this informal "teaching" on her blog last week.

But in the end I think that I prefer Deb's broader definition: 
"Christian maturity is (1) continued growth and (2) fruit."


-J said...

Thanks for the link ~ and the thought-provoking post. I agree with the definition at the end of your post, but would add that fruit does not necessarily mean "in others." Consider a missionary in a difficult people group where faithfulness might mean decades of planting with no "fruit." Another lesson I'm learning (big time) is that comparisons aren't helpful most of the time. We are each in a different position in Christ's body and how we mature will probably look different.

Hippomanic Jen said...

We had that thought at church on Sunday. It was related to James 3:13ff and the concept of true wisdom. I think we do miss opportunities to disciple others (and I don't necessarily mean disciple in terms of "converting", but of passing on what we've learnt). We don't have a culture that supports young people in learning Christian life, often it's only "teaching" in terms of sunday school. Head stuff, rather than life stuff.

I'm still absorbing and thinking about it.

Hippomanic Jen said...

in response to -J above, I would say that the scriptural definition of fruit is most definitely not "in others" - we cannot develop love, joy, peace, etc in anybody else. In fact we can't develop them in ourselves, they are a natural by-product of a life lived in the presence of God.

Wendy said...

J, I've been learning for a long time (since I arrived in Japan) that comparisons aren't helpful. It doesn't mean, though, that I don't struggle not to make comparisons! I call it, "The Curse of Comparison."

I'm glad that this is thought provoking. I had such a strong emotional reaction to what was going on on Simone's blog that I decided I'd intentionally explore my own thoughts rather than just allow my emotions to run riot.

AlyceB said...

Just quickly as I'm about to get off the bus for work (ironically teaching! Albeit English) and I'll read Simone's post later, but I have just asked my mother in law to disciple me as I'm feeling so adrift here in Japan. We attend a local Lutheran church's kids' service as the kids are too restless for the later, longer normal service. But it's in Japanese. I get the drift of it, with help from my husband, but I've had no "input" since leaving Australia. Thankfully she's jumped on board willingly and it is in fact fulfilling a prophesy prayed over her two weeks ago. I have never done this before, I think she has, but it is so valuable! Even just the short Skype and some emails so far!

KarenKTeachCamb said...

I think maturity is seen in many ways, and I'm sure passing on what we have learned to others (i.e. teaching) is part of it, but I definitely don't think it is a requirement for "maturity". I don't think it's just an age related thing either. God works in each of us, and everyone's maturing process is different. What seems mature in one culture may seem both immature and inappropriate in another. I like the end definition too, provided the fruit being talked about is personal fruit.

JoyceB, I'm so glad to read of someone who has recognised a need for more input and found a practical way to get it. Enjoy.

Karen said...

I've been following the discussion but haven't had a lot of time to comment anywhere. It may have already been mentioned elsewhere but does the difficulty you have lie in the fact that you are limiting teaching to the formal variety? I mean, you would be teaching/discipling your children, wouldn't you?

Wendy said...

Yes it's true, Karen, I did forget that (and a fellow missionary reminded me on the FB link to this post). However, I'm wondering how many church leaders would think of this informal teaching when thinking about the spiritual maturity of the mothers in their church? I mean all parents teach their kids, for good for for bad. When you think of leaders (in a Christian perspective), for example, you don't automatically think of the leadership that every mum has to exert in her parenting.

Still musing out loud.

Anna said...

Another thought: You can observe maturity in a Christian when you can see that they are conscious of their dependence on God, for grace in forgiveness, for power in enabling, for security in times of trouble, and wisdom in difficulty. Brokenness and humility are a more reliable indicator than behaviours that allow individuals to insinuate upon others the impression that they have it all together in the Christian life.
( Late night thoughts of Roger!)
I comment because we were disturbed by some of the definitions that were being put out there.
Miss you Wend!

Wendy said...

Anna/Rog you said it very well. How someone acts when on adversity is a far better indicator of maturity than how they act when in a position of power (or security). I might even go further and say that many on the Western church is probably quite immature because many live such comfortable lives.