Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Meditation on “Sluggish” Growth

I have a part time job of translating devotionals for a Chinese prayer journal. As I translate it, I would sometimes meditate on the passage myself, which I found very rewarding. Today’s verses are in Hebrews 5:11-12:

I have plenty to say about this; but it may be hard to make it clear, because your capacity to take things in has become sluggish. Yes, by now you really should have become teachers, but you need someone to teach you the basic elementary beginnings of God’s oracles… (N.T. Wright’s translation)

Dr. Moen’s meditation is to focus one word at a time, in its original language. So now I am to look at the word “sluggish” here, which is usually translated as “dull” or “slow”. To summarize the context of the word, Christ as a priest making sacrifice for God’s people is in discussion. Then suddenly the author began to talk about sluggishness of his audience.

By meditating on “sluggish”, I am struck by the idea of what “by now you really should have become”—-me? Or we Foothill Presbyterians? To become teachers of whom? Of our neighbors? Our friends and family members? Our children? Right, I am a Christian of many years, so are many of my church friends, but becoming a teacher in discipleship probably is not in our mind most of the time. Maybe we should put it into our mind!

I became a Christian in an evangelical church. In evangelical churches we usually have discipleship program of some sort: a class, or one-on-one structure that following a book of discipleship aimed to equip new believers with knowledge of our Christian faith and church services etc. Ideally, by the end of program, you are a matured Christian that can teach others. Things rarely turned out that way as far as I could tell; the spiritual growth is seldom linear.

Dr. Moen uses driving to illustrate the spiritual sluggishness:

Do you remember learning to drive? Do you remember the mild panic when you first drove in traffic? But now, after years of practice, you probably aren’t even aware of most of your driving behavior. It’s so routine that you don’t even think about it. Now you can talk on the cell phone, listen to music, watch the billboards and still negotiate the car to your destination. When we see a driver who really isn’t concentrating at all, we say that person is “asleep at the wheel”.

The same thing can happen in our journey with God. We become dull (sluggish) when traveling the road of faith becomes a routine. How does it get to be a routine? Simple. We do the same things over and over and over until we stop thinking about them: the same order in the church service; the same evangelistic invitation; the same communion procedure; the same message delivery, the same prayers; the same Bible stories. Pretty soon it’s all so scripted that we can go to sleep at the wheel. We aren’t traveling any new roads so we don’t have to pay attention to the terrain.

Yes, this is a good critique. Right now I am trying to establish small group ministry, which intends to break through a sort of spiritual sluggishness here with our small church. Discipleship takes a lot more nurturing and caring than just hear sermons. We all need to grow continually, teach and learn from one another and from new friends, to retain that curiousness and freshness of our Christian faith, and to grow spiritually. Small groups will be an attempt to do just that.

I appreciate all the people who serve the small groups. We need many more people to rise to the small group ministry services.

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