In addressing a negative view of spiritual maturity by young Christians, Thomas Bergler writes in his book, The Juvenlization of American Christianity:
“…Early in my college teaching career, I asked a group of my students, “What does a mature Christian look like?” They disliked the question and resisted answering it. “I don’t think we ever arrive in our spiritual growth.” “We’re not supposed to judge one another.” “No one is perfect in this life.” Sadly, these evangelical college students did not believe that Christian maturity was either attainable or desirable. The churches that had nurtured these young people well enough to get them to pursue a Christian college education had not managed to inspire them with a biblical vision of spiritual maturity.” p18
Many of the reasons that could be stated for the extended adolescence among so many in American culture today are probably linked to this distaste for spiritual maturity. He later adds:
For example, is the music we sing in church fostering a self-centered, romantic spirituality in which following Jesus is compared to “failing in love”? If so, we should not be surprised if some people have a relationship with Jesus that has all the maturity and staying power of an adolescent infatuation. Do we ask every church member to master a shared body of basic truths, or is all of our Christian education on an “a la carte” basis? If the latter, then we should not be surprised if people pick and choose which parts of Christian truth to believe and live… Do we model service, teach about it, and provide opportunities for every believer to serve others? If not, we should not be surprised if people continue to think the faith is “all about me.” p227
It’s worth asking how churches and parents are reinforcing either mature or immature visions of the Christian faith. Denying self, serving others, and graduating to adulthood do not come natural to us and feel undesirable in many ways. Childishness is associated with being fickle, vacillating, violent outbursts, a lack of discernment and endurance, impatience and unreliability. Notice that this describes many adults just as well as it does youth – which is actually part of Bergler’s main point in the book (how juvenilization has infected adult Christians). It’s important to realize that we’ll never attain a perfect maturity in this lifetime. Only Christ has accomplished that on our behalf. We will find ourselves falling short. And yet, the beauty of growing in patience, wisdom, long-suffering, faithfulness and servanthood is a wonderful thing and an expected thing for Christians. It is in many ways the goal of our faith. And it is possible in Christ.