There is no excuse for immaturity in the Body of Christ, especially among those called to leadership. It is not easy to be a spiritual leader because there are not always visible results to measure. Sometimes frustrated pastors will throw themselves into looking after things that can be measured such as an increase in the number of people attending, improvements on the building, new programs, even writing a book. These are all easily measurable and lend a certain sense of satisfaction, but it is not spiritual leadership.
I was struck this morning by apostle Paul's attitude and approach to being called to lead people into a greater relationship with Jesus. As knowledgeable and intelligent as he was, Paul remained humbled by God's grace even in the face of an immature church. I know the problem the church of Corinth was to Paul because I have read his letters to them. He must have been frustrated with their lack of progress and their silliness over unimportant matters, yet he writes:
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 5:4)
I don't think Paul was lying as he wrote this; I think this is how he prevented himself from killing them. It is hard to kill someone when you keep professing your gratefulness for them. Leaders must always be grateful for the people God has placed in our lives. In fact, this is a great attitude for all Christians to gain. If we took the time and expressed to God and to people how grateful we are for them then our hearts would be tender toward them and we would deal with them in love instead of frustration. Perhaps you don't realize just what a pain these Corinthians were to understand the significance of what Paul was doing here.
Note however that he was not grateful because of anything they did but because of what Jesus had done for them. That changes a lot for us as well when we constantly see people as the object of Jesus' affection. It makes it harder to give up on them or to walk away. Paul wrote this in many of his letter, "I thank God as I remember you". This helps us smell the aroma of Jesus on every person we know, whether they are mature or immature, helpful or a pain, a positive or negative pull in our life. After all, we were not sent to love only the lovable. This is a mature attitude in ministering with people.
Paul also maintain that Jesus was doing something in these people, that they were blessed and that God himself was working on them. He chose to see the good things that were taking place and not just the negative:
For in him you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge— because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. (1 Corinthians 1:5-6)
Sometimes this is one of the most difficult things to maintain in our ministry, the balance of the positive with the negative. It takes a mature leader to be able to maintain a balanced approach to dealing with problems in a person's life. It is not all negative. We have to remember all the good things, the many blessings, the great talent and we have to remind people of this fact. We all have messed up in some areas and there are things that need to be dealt with but there is still all the good things God has been developing over the years. When some things are revealed by the Spirit it is not so that we can kill people but instead so we can help them through it into God's glory. It does not nullify everything else that God has already accomplished.
Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (1 Corinthians 1:7)
This doesn't just apply to leaders in the Church but to every Christian as we interact with each other. It would lessen a lot of frustrations and allow for greater unity as we keep a balanced view of each others lives. We have to remember that the Spirit is at work in each of us, changing, developing, maturing each of us and sometimes dealing with unpleasant matters. None of us are perfect and where we are strong in some aspects of our lives we are weak in others, yet Jesus hasn't walked away from any of us:
He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:8)
Paul is writing this to a church that has become a drain on him and he believes it to be one hundred percent true. Paul was refusing to allow these matters to interfere with his responsibility to encourage, teach and correct the people he was given to love. Paul knew what Jesus was doing, that he would keep these people strong to the end, that on the day of the Lord they would be seen as blameless. It didn't mean he was about to ignore these problems but just that he would deal with them in a proper attitude. Despite our frustration, aggravations, and our distaste at having to deal with matters of immaturity, we do it from a point of love and balance. At the end of the day we have to be absolutely convinced that Jesus loves even the most frustrating person, that he is working in them and that he will always be faithful to them:
God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
Being convinced of these things you will possess the mind of Jesus to be able to deal with all matters with the wisdom and love of Christ. Without such a mature view of people we will end up being sheep killers and we can't be that because Jesus would not be pleased with us. It is as we gain this attitude toward ministering with people that we will begin to grasp the Father's love and will have a mature understanding of how much we must love them with this love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Don't rush that passage. Read it again and hold it up to the way you deal with people in your life and ministry. Without this grace that comes from love we are dealing with the speck of dust and piece of lumber in the eye situation. Who will be judged more harshly, the one who acted immaturely or the one who led immaturely? Once we have gained this attitude we are ready to deal with the problems.