I believe many churches have a diet problem. While an article on gluttony would be sure to offend many and might be needed, I am talking about spiritual diets. I think we need to think of our spiritual depth in a new way.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that you have to start new/immature believers on the “milk” of the Word and then slowly wean them off of it. I disagree. This strategy isn’t working.
You might need to start new believers with basic doctrines, but once those are mastered, a slow “weaning” process doesn’t work. That is why we have believers who have been in church for decades who are still very spiritually shallow. We are waiting to see better results of the “milk” before we try the “meat.”
Here’s the kicker: You can’t develop a taste for food you never eat. So, what am I saying? I’m saying if you are a believer who feels that you “aren’t ready” for deeper learning, stop thinking that way and just jump in the deep end. You might flounder at first, but it’s the only way you’ll learn to swim.
Think of the process of spiritual growth like diet and exercise. You can change your diet and exercise routine instantly. It might take some time to see all the results you want, but you can change your diet at any time. It might not be pleasant at first, but it is essential to having a healthier body. And, there is never a “right time” (i.e. a convenient time) to change. If you’re always waiting to change until after the next holiday or party, you’ll never change. Likewise, if you’re waiting until you feel spiritually mature before you elevate your spiritual learning, you’ll never grow.
Below are 10 tips which you can begin today that will get you off the spiritual milk and on to theological T-bones:
1. Download podcasts or listen to sermons online: If you have a smart phone or a computer, then you have access to virtually every semi-famous Bible teacher since the 80s. Most of today’s well-known teachers have a daily or weekly podcast that you can have waiting for you in the morning. I recommend the “Just Thinking” podcast by Ravi Zacharias if you don’t know where to start. However, if you go online and search for almost any preacher, you have access to recorded sermons which you can listen to at any time.
2. Explore specialty topics besides eschatology/end times: If there is one thing I know after working on decades of issues of the Trumpet, it is that Baptists love to speculate on end-times issues. However, there are plenty of other relevant “issues” that Christians need to understand in a clear way. Once a week, go to a website such as bethinking.org and read an article or two about a topic of interest. These articles will point you to Bible passages dealing with each topic.
3. Enter the “marketplace” of Christian thought: This might come as a shock, but sometimes Christians who agree about the authority and inerrancy of the Bible disagree about what is the best way to interpret different passages. As part of exploring specific topics (point 2), you should read articles from people who disagree with you and each other. This will either correct you or at the very least inform you so that you can better teach others why you believe what you believe.
4. Stop being afraid of being wrong: A great many of us seem to believe that we just so happened to have joined/grown up in a church where every teacher happened to be absolutely perfect in their teaching/understanding of the Bible. None of us are going to Heaven because of our perfect theology. This means that sometimes, you are going to have to change what you believe. It is uncomfortable and humbling to admit you were wrong; but chewing steak is a lot tougher than sipping milk. As long as your change of position comes from logical arguments, a heart of seeking truth and not from wishful feelings, then there is no need to be afraid. All truth is God’s truth.
5. Don’t run from difficulties: If you study the Bible with an honest mind, you’re going to find passages that trouble you. Do not simply move past them and act as if they are not there. It is good to ask questions. In 2014, you have access to a wealth of good Biblical teaching that can help you sort through difficulties. Talk to your pastor, do research and don’t stop until you could explain a solution of the difficulty to another person. When I study, I keep The Big Book of Bible Difficulties by Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe next to me.
6. Get a mentor who is smarter than/loves Jesus more than you do: It’s called “discipleship.”
7. Read classics: I am a big fan of modern authors such as David Platt, William Lane Craig and Tim Keller. However, there is a reason that names like C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Spurgeon, etc., are still mentioned today. Get your hands on some of their works. Mere Christianity is a great place to start.
8. Enter the marketplace of all ideas: This really scares people. But, if you want to have a deep, real faith, then that faith will make you want to tell others. And if you want to communicate your faith, you need to understand what other alternatives of thought the world is pushing. You need to understand the arguments for evolution, same-sex marriage, abortion, atheism etc., if you’re going to be a light in this world.
9. Talk with (not at) non-Christians: You might be able to intellectually understand world views contrary to your own, but that does no good to a lost world if you don’t interact with it. You want to learn to depend on God? Build a loving relationship with an atheist.
10. Most importantly, pray a lot: You can’t have a relationship with the Lord if you don’t have a relationship with the Lord. A relationship is not a “I talked to someone once (i.e. said a prayer…),” a relationship is ongoing. You’re going to need His guidance. You’re going to plead with Him to help you understand things. You’re going to have to lay your frustrations on Him as your faith and confidence in Him grows, but others reject the God you love more each day.
It is not your pastor’s job to determine what kind of spiritual food you eat any more than it is my mother’s job to plan and deliver every meal for her 26-year-old son. That would be ridiculous. However, God has provided us with a buffet of resources. Feed yourself.