One of the reasons why it can be confusing to figure out where you stand with Christ is because there are all kinds of different people in any given local church. You would think every church would be stocked with 100% mature Christians, and that you could go to any and get a good sample of what a mature Christian looks like. But this is not the case. Jesus never promised that this would be the case.
Church is a mixture of people, but there are five different types of people that are common in any local church.
The Not Yet
The first type of person in any church is the “Not Yet” Christian. These are folks who may be here and interested in Jesus Christ; they’re open to Him, they participate in church activities, but they haven’t yet received Jesus’ forgiveness and haven’t yet acknowledged Him as their Lord. They’re looking things over and trying to understand the gospel.
Not Yet Christians should not be expected to show the fruit of Christianity. Ephesians 2:1 talks about the condition for these types of people: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked . . .” Before we have new life in Christ, the Bible describes us as spiritually dead. We don’t have the Holy Spirit, but there is potential.
When you first become a Christian, the Bible describes it like new birth. Spiritually speaking, you’re starting all over.
Expectations for Baby Christians are not the same as expectations for mature Christians. As a church, though, oftentimes we settle for baby expectations. Somebody goes to church . . . YES! Somebody reads their Bible . . . YES! But these are just beginning steps. We should not expect much from Baby Christians, but we should expect them to grow.
Sometimes our growth gets stunted, whether because we are dealing with issues from the past or because our environment is not conducive to growth. This was one of the Corinthian church’s main issues. Paul writes to them, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as in infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it . . .” (1 Corinthians 3:1-2). He reprimands the church for not growing up, not progressing. Baby Christians need to move forward at some point.
Third, we have the “Growing” Christian. This is where all of us want to be. None of us are going to be perfect until Jesus returns, but we all want to be growing and showing increasing evidence that we have indeed been saved, been given the Holy Spirit, and are ministering to others.
We aren’t just called to receive forgiveness and God’s love and grace; we are called into His awesome work and gifted by the Holy Spirit to be a functioning part of the church. We grow out of childhood and become mature in faith so that we can spread the gospel and build up the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).
“Sickly” Christians are genuine Christians, but for some reason they’re in a season of life when they are drifting away. Sometimes it’s because they aren’t receiving all the nourishment they need from other believers and from God. Often it’s because of ongoing, unrepentant sin.
Christians will get into sin – that’s not the problem. The problem is ongoing, unrepentant sin: sin that you don’t turn away from and try to justify. When you go that route, you end up breaking relationships with other Christians and fracturing your relationship with God.
The fifth type of person in any church is the “Fake” Christian. They are pretty good at doing the church thing. But they’re not here because they’ve been saved and want to reconnect with other Christians – they’re here for some other reason. This is the most dangerous place to be.
Growing Christians can sometimes detect Fake Christians, but God detects them every time. The church is no place for pretense, not because we are all sinful, but because God is never fooled and He can see straight through it all.
Which One Are You?
If you are a Not Yet Christian, what you need is to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. You need to ask questions and gain clarity so that you can make a decision about Christ.
If you are a Baby Christian, what you need is to have other Christians around you to help you grow. You need to find Growing Christians who can disciple you and show you what it means to live as a follower of Christ.
If you are a Growing Christian, you are in the sweet-spot. Keep sharing the gospel and using your spiritual gifts to build up the church. Evangelize the Not Yet and Fake, disciple the Baby, and seek after the Sickly.
If you are a Sickly Christian, what you need is healing – and often that healing comes through the form of discipline. Just like parents must discipline their children to get them back on course, so God disciplines His children.
If you are a Fake Christian, you really need the same things as the Not Yet Christian. You need to put off all that pretending and get serious, asking the questions you need to ask so you can make the call if you believe this stuff or not.
So which one are you? Seriously have this conversation with God, and ask Him, “Which one am I right now? How can I move forward?” Talk to God about this and then also talk about it with one other person. Don’t move forward until you know where you stand in your faith.
- What is a “Not Yet” Christian?
- What do they need?
- What is a “Baby” Christian?
- What should we expect from them?
- Why might a Baby Christian not grow?
- What do they need to grow?
- What is a “Growing” Christian?
- How do we become this?
- What is a Growing Christian’s purpose?
- What is a “Sickly” Christian?
- Why might a Christian become “Sickly”?
- How do you heal from this condition?
- What is a “Fake” Christian?
- Why is it dangerous to be this type of person?
- Why are these types of people dangerous?
- What do Fake Christians need?