There’s a quick easy read on discipleship by John Stott, which ended up being the first title I tackled during my most recent retreat for study and prayer. Stott called attention to 8 neglected aspects of Christian discipleship. For more information on his book, The Radical Disciple, check out this link.
One of the chapters discussed maturity from the context of Colossians 1:28 and I was reminded of the significance of my own calling to disciple college students. Some scholars believe that Paul was addressing an early form of Gnostic heresy in his letter to the believers in Colossae. The problem was manifesting itself in a false dichotomy between average and elite Christians. (Get a quick overview of Gnosticism here).
I find that this particular heresy continues to be quite rampant in Christianity today. Many believe that there are varying degrees of Christian commitment which are acceptable to God and He doesn’t actually require holiness or “perfection” from everyone. But Paul sends a kill shot right into the heart of this heresy when he reminds the Colossian Christians what he is all about:
“Him we proclaim, warning EVERYONE and teaching EVERYONE with ALL wisdom, that we may present EVERYONE mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” Colossians 1:28-29 (ESV)
The Greek word for maturity or perfection is teleios and shows up 19 times in the New Testament. Whenever it is used, there’s a comparative not an absolute sense of the word which is in play. A mature/perfect disciple is NOT absolutely mature/perfect without any further room for growth but mature/perfect in comparison to a newborn…or a spiritual infant. So the implication is that Christian maturity is an expectation of a disciple (“radical” as Stott points out in the root sense of the word).
In the context of campus ministry, this goal or calling can be quite challenging because of the complexities, transitions, competitive demands which characterize the average college student or young adult. However, that could be said of high school students and senior citizens just depending on the day. The deeper challenge is helping a student have a grander vision for their own spiritual journey than occasional church attendance or participating in a weekly fellowship/bible study. Following Christ demands a singular focus and commitment which leaves many Christians occasionally saying “Lord, Lord…” but mostly living for “Me, Me…” (Matthew 25:44)