About seven months ago, my life changed drastically. I became a grandfather, and while I didn't understand before what all of the hoopla was about, now I see why everyone thinks their grand baby is the most special person in the world. Of course, everyone else is wrong, because my little Olivia is the most beautiful and perfect grandchild that there has ever been.
Watching her grow has been a reminder to me of all of the wonders of being a first time parent, without the sleep deprivation, and heavy lifting. Every day it seems that we are passing another milestone. Olivia is experimenting with real food, she is scooting around the floor at breakneck speed, and she is getting her teeth. She is growing stronger physically and her personality is blossoming on a daily basis.
With every new accomplishment, with every skill that she masters, new challenges are presented. Olivia's world is growing and the burden falls upon her parents and upon us as her grandparents to prepare her for the adventure ahead.
In many ways, I see my role as a Pastor in much the same way. I'm not the one who brought this new life into the world, but I get to enjoy seeing and facilitating it's growth. Babies bring with them responsibilities. They need to be fed, loved, and nurtured. As they grow, they need to be taught the basic things that they will need to become fruitful and responsible adults.
If every time a baby cries you stick a bottle in its mouth, you might be establishing a pattern for a life-long, unhealthy relationship with food. If a child learns that all they have to do to get their way is to throw a tantrum, he might grow up to be selfish and demanding as an adult.
With young believers, there are some key principles that they need to learn early in their spiritual life so that they avoid some of the pitfalls of older Christians who have become stuck in their ways.
First, a new believer needs to develop a hunger for the Word of God. My daughter-in-law is choosing to add new food options slowly and gradually into my granddaughter's life. She decides on what to give her based on her evaluation of how Olivia will be able to chew, swallow and digest it. These are all new skills that will be vital later on when Olivia can no longer rely on her mother's milk for nourishment. A new believer needs to be challenged with the Word of God, but not choked with the "strong meat" of controversial doctrinal issues. They need to learn to recognize the face of God through the picture of Him that they find in His Word.
Second, the young believer needs to commit to the process of discipleship. Discipleship is more than a program or a course of instruction. Discipleship is the process of growth that brings a young believer to maturity in Christ. It is dependent on relationships, the believer's relationship with Christ, with the Spirit, and with other believers. It can't be something that is left to chance. It must be pursued daily.
Third, the growing believer must understand the concept of stewardship in a biblical sense. A friend of mine defines stewardship as "Trusting in the promises of God, to deploy the gifts and resources of God, to accomplish the mission of God for the glory of God." I believe that God calls all believers to love and generosity. Once we understand that I belong to Him, everything belongs to Him, and He wants to use us and everything that He has given us to accomplish His will in our lives and in the lives of others, things come into much clearer focus.
Finally, the mature believer must submit himself to the plan of God and find his place of ministry within the context of Christ's body. Spiritual growth is wasted if it is not implemented in service to God and to others.
When these things are happening in the lives of new believers, their walk with God thrives and so does the church.
I have enjoyed seven months of milestones in the life of my Granddaughter. I look forward to the next few; her first steps, her first words, when she can hug my neck, etc. And if the Lord tarries, a long list of other accomplishments and blessings.
As a Pastor, I look for similar milestones in the life of my people as they grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord. And from generation to generation, I look forward to seeing what God will do in and through the lives of those that Grace Harbor is reaching today.