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Spiritual Adolescence


This article contains some reflections based on my time away from the community.

There can be no doubt that God desires us to grow spiritually. Just as children pass through various stages of physical development, so too do Christians who are born again into the Kingdom of God.

New disciples are often likened unto newborn babes in scripture. And just like newborn babes, new disciples depend heavily on the spiritual parentage of the community of believers to foster their growth in their new world of faith.

But, just as it is not healthy for children to be excessively dependent on their parents, it is not healthy spiritually for disciples to be excessively dependent on the community for all their needs for the rest of their lives. Some disciples may grow faster than others, but eventually there comes a time when disciples try their wings and fly the nest in a variety of ways. Some of this has been covered in the study entitled Corporate Adolescence.

We must all graduate from being dependent on other humans in the group for our guidance and direction, to a full mature relationship with God our Father. Most of the time, if we are really in harmony with the Holy Spirit, we will also be in harmony with the community as well. But, as we have seen in the physical phase of adolescence there can be a period of turmoil between emerging adults and their parents. Perhaps the parents are overprotective, and perhaps the adolescent is impatient to try his or her wings. It can be a painful time for both the parent and child.

Sometimes the parents just have to let the adolescent go and try things for himself/herself, even though, on the face of it, it appears to the parents that the adolescent is going to make a failure of it.

One aspect of my experience away from the community, was that at some point I became aware that I was financially dependent on the community. What I mean is, I did not at that time have sufficient faith that I could survive on my own, and continue to live according to all the principles of the Kingdom. This creates a subtle problem in the mind of the person so affected. They begin to feel trapped by the community because they don't believe they can survive without it.

I think there is a lot of power in knowing within oneself that although you are free to leave the community at any time (if you really want to), you choose to stay of your own free will. A person who is afraid to leave for whatever reason becomes imprisoned by their own fears. It is not that the group is trying to lay any heavy trips on the disciple. It is just something that disciples must deal with within themselves.

Unfortunately, we have seen many people leave the community and not resolve this fear within themselves. When this happens, it becomes easy for such people to blame the group for their own problems. The person may have been suppressing a lot of these feelings of unresolved frustration for some time while still within the group, So they may spill out in negative ways at first, just as adolescents often express anger and frustration to their parents in hurtful ways. It is because they are not yet mature enough to deal with whatever is going on inside themselves... something which they probably do not yet fully understand.

Therefore, I believe that if someone is having problems living within the group, we should lovingly give them room to sort themselves out outside the group. Give them tracts if they want and let them go.

If they are sincere about sorting themselves out, they will usually continue to do similar things outside the group that they were doing inside the group, even though they will almost certainly do a pretty rough job of it by comparison to how they would have performed as part of a cohesive group. Nevertheless, by trying to maintain supportive communication with these people, there is every chance that they will return to the group at a later date better off spiritually for their experience.

Of course, if someone is looking for an excuse just to give up and go back to the system altogether (i.e. backslide), then despite all their talk about how they are going out there to learn a few lessons on their own, they will usually end up doing less and less until they have lost all spark of religious zeal.

Lets face it, one day we may find ourselves in prison totally cut off from fellowship with other Christians. If that happens, our only fellowship will be with God alone, and we must be completely self motivated, and God motivated. That is because it is a co-operative partnership between your will and the will of God, just as husband and wife must co-operate in order to work as a team. This is the road to spiritual maturity which does not depend on human leaders or other Christians to tell you what to do.

This is why the community continually emphasises that we should be asking God all through the day as to what task he wants us to do next. When this is happening we are mature and we do not have to wait for other humans to show us what to do next. We will also have an amazing spiritual unity within the community that will absolutely baffle unbelievers, because each member is getting their orders directly from the Spirit of God within them. HOW EXCITING!

(See also Corporate Adolescence.)

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