Monkeys and Maturity: How Not to Grow Spiritually

Monkeys and Maturity: How Not to Grow Spiritually

When I start evangelism class each semester I like to ask students a question like this: Why do so many believers sing with such passion on Sundays but fail to open their mouths to coworkers on Monday?

There are a variety of reasons, but a school teacher named Heather in my Tuesday night class noted a primary one: “We practice singing every week,” she observed.

It’s true. Every week we sing together. Singing songs and hymns and spiritual songs is a common experience we all share. But this also signifies a larger issue, and that’s the primary way we learn to grow as disciples. How do we?

Monkey-see, monkey do. We learn to grow based on what we see our peer group of Christians doing. If your closest Christian friends talk about reading the Word daily, you are more likely to do so. If prayer matters to them, it will matter to you. If your group has a passion for an issue like adoption, caring for orphans will likely be a part of your faith development. And this is not a bad thing. It’s just not a balanced thing.

Try this exercise sometime: Read the book of Acts with a notebook at your side. Write down those things that seemed an obvious priority for those early believers. If you made a list, advancing the gospel no matter the obstacles would rank at or near the top, right?

A basic reason we don’t share our faith regularly is this: We don’t share our faith regularly. It’s not something most of us practice a lot, like singing, and thus it’s not something we talk about a lot.

What if we made telling others about Jesus as much a part of our practice as singing? I think we don’t talk to the lost world about Jesus because we don’t talk to each other enough about Him. What if talking about Jesus, the change he makes, our growing relationship with Christ, and what we are learning and applying about following him became a common topic?

I know this: When I’m around a group of believers who regularly talk about a coworker with whom they are witnessing, or meeting up with a neighbor to share Christ, or similar encounters, it makes me more aware of my own opportunities to tell others about Jesus. I talk a lot about praying for servers and speaking to them about Jesus, for instance. It’s not a surprise that yesterday a student (and one of our young pros at my church) told me with joy about facing her fears and speaking with a server. She had a great conversation!

Let’s think about what we talk about the most, and let’s make sure in our conversations and our practice the great commission is more than the great intention. Let our monkey-see, monkey-do approach be replaced by intentionally following the life and teachings of Jesus.

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Alvin Reid
Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.