It seems like yesterday when my firstborn son came into the world. Amidst the mess of soggy wet hair and infant shrieks (that I’m sure translated into “No! Put me back in!”), a little seven pound boy lay squirming in my arms. Nineteen years later we said our goodbyes at the US Air Force recruiting office; he was off to basic training and this time it was dad who was crying like a baby.
In those years I watched my son grow into a man who is now taller than I am. Weaning him from mother’s milk to solid food was part of his development. In those days I remember learning many parallels between that process and the spiritual life.
Hebrews 5:14 illustrates this comparison: “Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God’s ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong.”
The writer here contrasts the mature Christian with the immature, comparing the latter to a baby still in need of milk.
Because of swelling attendance numbers and spectacular meeting places we might think that Christian people, and surely ourselves, are dining on meat and not milk. But piety is easily faked, and the truth is that many so-called believers need to get off the breast.
Raw survey data shows this to be true; in the American church it is only a minority of members that actually participate in the most elementary of Christian practices. A third tithe monthly, a tenth read Scripture daily, and less than that share their faith with regularity.
The lights and show of first-world faith have authorized believers to spectate rather than participate. We are brainwashed into seeing the church and our faith as something to entertain and arouse us rather than challenge and grow us. Rather than pioneering new adventures, most believers are content to tread the same old worn paths that hide no mysteries and involve no risk.
Once I was talking with some children about the Scripture above. Much can be learned from children. I asked them what the differences were between eating milk and meat. They made some pretty deep observations:
“Milk goes down easy, but you have to chew steak for a while before you can swallow it!”
“Doesn’t a steak cost way more than a glass of milk?”
“Milk is free but you have to kill something to get steak.”
So it is. Baby faith goes down easy, is cheap, and involves no risk. Mature faith takes some work, is costly, and might involve some dying.
A church full of believers who push against this milk mentality is one that allows and equips each member to have their own what I call ‘sub vision’. By ‘sub vision’ I mean that each person finds some way that, using their own particular gift mix and personality, they go from only following the vision of the church leaders to finding ways to implement their own hopes and dreams for God. It’s each person’s own vision, one that doesn’t depend on others to be realized because they are responsible for it.
This requires a risk mentality and one that accepts the mess involved in giving away authority and leadership. But isn’t that what Jesus did? He trained his followers and then let them go out and practice, only the practice was doing the real stuff to real people. Often they had great successes but they also experienced many failures.
And that was okay. The fruit of this is the church all around the world. It grew from a few hundred bumbling disciples into an awesome army that is reaching the entire earth.
Let’s get back to that. Let’s take risks and stop merely warming chairs. Instead of attending a program, create your own. Instead of only giving money, venture to also raise money for something. Instead of only being inspired by the vision of your spiritual leaders, find a way to inspire others by the vision God has put in your heart.
In this way Christians become fierce and relevant. We go from being spectators to participants. We cease to only hear the word of God and begin to do it. And we go from milk to meat.