In a country in West Africa, Joyce and I were second generation missionaries. [Please understand I fully realize that mission efforts in different cultures and societies are unique -- we must be cautious when we are tempted to form universal mission principles from single culture experiences.] We really wanted to do mission work!

I was on campaign to that area about a year prior to our move. Four missionary families had all details arranged for the thirteen campaigners to visit for three weeks. Villages received us enthusiastically! Excited crowds listened and discussed for hours! Many were baptized! Evening meetings with missionary families were enthusiastic events! Four families and thirteen visitors are a big crowd in any home!

Before we moved, I envisioned lots of evangelistic activity. About thirty congregations existed when we arrived. Shortly there were fifty. In less than two years, there were eighty. At "leave time," there were one hundred ten known congregations. They sprang up spontaneously through neighbor, family, and friendship evangelism.

Never were there more than six missionary families (and that rarely!). Some did not have one convert who read or understood worship. Few Bibles, no printed lessons, and no study aids existed. Virtually every congregation was composed of spiritual infants. Immediately the overwhelming need was stabilization of infant converts and congregations. How do a maximum of six missionary men with no preacher training school stabilize fifty-plus congregations? Baptisms were easy, but nurturing spiritual infants was demanding! To allow Christians and congregations to die is failure, not success. If the mortality rate almost equals the birth rate, little is accomplished!

Spiritual maturity is a journey, not a destination! From believing in Jesus to a determination to repent is a journey. From both to the desire to enter a covenant relationship with God through baptism is a journey. Faith, repentance, and baptism merely produce a spiritual infant. At that point the journey truly begins!

The path to spiritual maturity is marked by "Jesus-guided" changes in behavior. Victory is not achieved by sitting down on baptism's banks, but by walking the path of godly living 24/7. A Christian man or woman never stops walking that path!

Did you view your baptism as a destination, or beginning a journey? Did you sit down on baptism's banks, or did you start walking the path of godly living? Is your spiritual goal maturity in Christ, or do you plan always to be a spiritual infant?

Baptizing is simple! Nurturing is demanding! Sitting is easy! Following a rock-filled path is hard! Do not sit down! Help others! Convert, but encourage believers to live godly lives!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 23 November 2003

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