As a young man growing up in Southern Appalachia, I never had the opportunity for much swimming. I learned some basics during a beach trip one year, but even with that modest lesson, I wasn’t a very good swimmer. I didn’t practice the sport or improve on the mere basics that had been taught to me. However, I distinctly remember being invited to a pool party in high school. Everyone else dove right in, swam, played, and goofed around directly in the deep end. I really didn’t want to stay in the shallow end treading water, so I’m sure you can see where this is going. Before long I was literally in over my head. I left that day with a strong desire to never swim again.
I hadn’t yet mastered the basics of swimming, so trying to spend time in the deep end was too much.
In a similar way, I’m meeting more and more young adults who lack an understanding of the fundamentals of Christianity. Still, they try to push into the deep end of the faith as quickly as possible. Many young adults reject a discipleship program based on accountability to regular Bible reading, Scripture memorization, and practical evangelism. They turn away from these ideas because they want “depth” or more challenging studies. It’s left me wondering. If you’re lacking a regular time spent studying of the Word and journaling, what makes you think you are ready for something more challenging? How can someone debate a theological topic when they’re not even familiar with where the Book of Philemon is found? What’s the benefit of deciding if you are a premillennialist, postmillennialist, or amillennialist if you haven’t even read the Book of Revelation once by yourself?
In 2 Peter 1:3-11, Peter lays out the roadmap for growing in spiritual maturity. It’s no great feat of theological understanding, but it is a reminder that basics are needed for growth. In verse 12, Peter tells his readers that they already know these things but he wants to continue to remind them. In fact, he says he will remind them of these things until the day of his departure so that they continue to remember his lessons even after he is gone.
As Christians, we’re to grow in our understanding of God and His Word. 1 Corinthians 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12 both draw a distinction between Christians who are not yet mature (who still need milk) and the next level up in maturity (those who eat whole food). In fact, the writer of Hebrews says that those who need milk still need “someone to teach [them] the basic principles of God’s revelation again.” There is a definite correlation between Biblical reading, understanding, and application with maturing spiritually.
As leaders, we must be about moving others towards maturity, which is defined by Scripture as understanding God’s Word. My wife says it simply: The goal is not to know about God but instead to know God by spending daily time in His presence.
- What if we made it a priority to teach, model, encourage, and motivate our young adults to read the Bible and faithfully seeking it’s wisdom daily?
- What if we had a whole generation of young adults who were committed to these basics?
- What if we memorized Scripture together and looked for opportunities to share the gospel?
I’m convinced that no spiritual growth happens until a commitment is made to study, read, hear, meditate, and memorize God’s Word.
Read the Word with young adults. Show them your journal. Teach them how to get into a habit of daily Bible reading and prayer. Direct young adults to passages that discuss prayer, fellowship, evangelism, and reading. Memorize Scripture with them. Then, when our time with them is over, we can say we’ve worked to remind them of these basics so much that now they will remember it even when we are gone. Then, we will have done the next generation a great service and fulfilled God’s calling in our lives by making mature disciples.
Conan Sherlin is the Baptist Collegiate Ministry Director at Nicholls State University in South Louisiana. He lives in Thibodaux, Louisiana with his wife Christy and their four kids (Evie, Ada, Haddie, and Gilford). Connect with Conan via Twitter: @nsherlin10.