In my experience, when a young person shows an interest in pursuing the Christian life or being grounded in their faith, they are, very often, advised to attend a Bible College or Seminary – or to undertake training for full time Ministry within their Church or Denomination.
However admirable that may be – it is of course an option not open to millions of believers in our world – and unknown to the ancient world in which the early Church was born and flourished.
The question then arises – if the early Church flourished without Bible Colleges, Seminaries, Theological Institutes and University Courses – what was the secret of their success – and what, if anything, can we learn from them?
The truth is of course that we have been deceived in to thinking that the things we have mentioned are the true way to spiritual maturity and growth in the Christian life – when in fact they, for the greater part, cater to the intellect and not the spirit. And it is only in the realm of the spirit we can mature as true Christians – and only in the power of the Holy Spirit that real Church growth is possible. Furthermore, it is only by growing in the experience of the love of God that true maturity is possible – and through the sharing of that love, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that genuine Church growth can be achieved and sustained.*
Writing to the early Church the Apostle Paul clearly taught that this is the case –
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3 14 – 19 (NKJV)
I remember an old American preacher saying many years ago now –“If America could be saved by Bible knowledge alone – it would have been saved years ago.” The truth is – it is only as we are – “rooted and grounded in love” – that we will truly grow and mature as believers – and it is only when love flows from those captivated by the love of God that the nations will be saved – there is no second way!
* This is not to say of course that knowledge and love are mutually exclusive.