We move through different growth levels spiritually.
We start as infants, insecure and dependent. Before become adolescents and then adults and parents, we first go through another stage:
Up until his death, my dad consistently introduced me to others as his “baby.” Why? I was the youngest of seven children. No matter how old I was, even as an adult in her 30’s and 40’s, he still viewed me as such. If he was still alive today, I am confident I would continue to hold that position to him.
All of us who have put our trust in Jesus Christ are children of God (Jn. 1:12-13). Consequently, all through the New Testament God refers to us as His children. Positionally we will always be God’s children but practically we must grow up to be productive adults and parents.
In this post we will be looking at spiritual children as a growth level, not from a relational position.
Spiritual Children Described:
1 Corinthians 14:20 provides insight into spiritual children.
Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
Put another way, we could say, be innocent in regard to evil but wise and discerning in your thinking. Jesus used a different analogy but the message is the same. He told his disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
The Corinthians needed to stop thinking like children because the thought processes of children don’t always lead to wise decisions.
1) Children tend to think about themselves. They are driven by self-centeredness. The context of 1 Corinthians 14:20 shows Paul dealing with the self-serving use of certain spiritual gifts.
2) Children tend to be limited by concrete thinking. They do not always make the connections between choices and consequences. Paul wanted them to stop and think about the negative results of their actions.
Ministering to Spiritual Children:
- They need help making connections. Start with what they know and build on that. Read through the Gospels and you will find Jesus constantly referring to what was familiar to teach the more abstract spiritual truths.
- They need to experience the consequences of their choices. We cannot, and should not, always intervene to “fix” the consequences of their actions. Think about God’s discipline. He forgives us but He does not usually remove the consequences our sin has set in motion. He does, however, sometimes soften the blow because of His grace but His objective is to make us holy not comfortable. He desires that we learn from our actions and become better in the future (Heb. 12:5-11). If we get involved in people’s lives with a “fix-it” mentality, we simply enable them to stay where they are. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Eph. 4:15)
Helping spiritual children make connections and experience the consequences of their choices, does not always have to be learned in the harsh reality of life. Illustrations, object lessons, case studies, role playing, and other simulated situations can be used by preachers, teachers, and counselors.
Learn more about these and other methods in the Sharpening Your Bible Teaching Methods Resource.
Bible teacher training resources looking at all the spiritual growth levels: Discipling Your Students Toward Spiritual Growth