My wife and I took a week-long trip to the beach to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. It was a wonderful time, but awaiting me when we returned was a considerable amount of administrative work. One of those tasks was writing thank you letters to the many financial supporters of our ministry. I typically try to give a general update on how our ministry is doing and include an anecdote or two. In this letter I focused on what our staff calls “baby steps.” We are in the midst of rebuilding our ministry. Like a college sports team who had great players, but had several poor recruiting years, there has been the need to rebuild because we graduated a lot of students, but gained few new ones.
Rebuilding requires patience because it rarely happens quickly. What one is looking for is improvement. Starting out, that means usually small improvements, or, as we refer to them, baby steps. It may be a student inviting another student to one of our social events or small groups. It may be a leader initiating a follow-up meeting for coffee or a hike, just to get more acquainted and demonstrate interest in getting to know that person. Or it might be a student who begins to read the Bible or pray on his own. These are baby steps in growth.
However, while we are excited to see these baby steps being taken, we will be very disappointed if, over time, these small, tentative steps don’t grow into confident strides. Think of a baby’s first steps. Parents are so overjoyed to witness those. We likely have all seen videos posted by parents of their child’s first steps. But no parent would continue to revel in very tentative and unstable steps as their child matures. What comes with increased maturity is more adept and confident steps. In other words, strides. We want our children to grow into confident walkers. Those early steps provide great excitement, but they are merely a beginning, not an end point.
It should be the same for us spiritually, particularly when it comes to raising our children. We should be moving continuously from baby steps to confident strides. The truth is, however, that many of us have grown comfortable with walking spiritually like babies. We are hesitant to walk through the Scriptures on our own; we are much more comfortable with being taken by the hand by a pastor, author, or television preacher. And if we try on our own, we are often so tentative that, like a baby, we just sit down or start crawling. I have met many adults over my life that have been faithful participants in church, but have no true working knowledge of the Scriptures, no active prayer life beyond prayers at mealtime, and no practical living out their faith other than how they spend their time on Sunday mornings. They are like what the writer of Hebrews describes:
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
I believe this is why so many young people who have grown up in the local church come to the university campus in need of learning how to take their first spiritual baby steps. They have never been shown how to walk with the Lord because their parents have never learned to do it, either. Instead of entering adulthood already confident in their walk with God, they still need to learn to take their first, tentative steps. Perhaps even sadder, many think they are walking when, in reality, they are still crawling.
Spiritual striding, confident and natural, should be our goal for ourselves and for our children. Baby steps are great, for babies, but there are way too many adults spiritually walking, or merely crawling, like babies. If we hope to change this, adult believers must make every effort to grow beyond baby steps and into confident spiritual strides. And, then, they must begin teaching their children how to walk so that once they reach adulthood, their spiritual strides are confident and natural.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references from the New International Version, 2011.