Church On The Edge
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Church On The Edge

Christian Maturity Means Suffering For Christ

Reflections on Christian Maturity

“Life is difficult.” The opening words to M. Scott Peck’s book, set forth a fundamental truth that we must both acknowledge and embrace in order to experience spiritual growth and maturity as followers of Jesus.

Jesus didn’t mince words. He spoke of the narrow path that few would choose and the inevitable persecution and suffering of his followers in a world antagonistic to God’s kingdom and God’s ways.

I wasn’t surprised when I read Peck’s sequel to , entitled, , to learn that between the two books, Peck became a Christian. In one sense, Peck came in through the back door. As a psychiatrist and graduate of Harvard University, he “thought” his way to the very edge of faith in Jesus and then chose to take what Soren Kierkegaard refers to as the “leap of faith.”

But the truth of is that pain and suffering are a part of life, and we cannot grow emotionally and spiritually until we accept this reality.

This brings me to the third thing I’d like to share with you about Christian maturity -

Suffering, in general, can produce spiritual growth and the wisdom that comes with it. When we stop trying to manage pain out of our lives by running from it or ignoring it — through things like substance abuse, overeating, or binge-watching TV — we are able to grow in a personal self-awareness, which is reflected in our relationships and worldview.

This “general” suffering, common to all people, is used by God in the lives of His children to grow us and shape us into the image of Jesus. But ultimately, something more is needed: we must also experience an additional kind of suffering; we must experience what it means to suffer as followers of Jesus and citizens of God’s kingdom.

In many ways, this is what “Church on the Edge” is all about. The “edginess” of Jesus’ teachings about God’s kingdom has been dulled and worn down by the institutional church, religious nationalism, and a crippling insecurity on the part of many Christians that leads to a faith more defined by a militancy and anger at the world than a loving outreach to those ensnared in its destructive ways. Tragically, it is this edgeless faith that also imprisons us and keeps us from experiencing the promise and fullness of God’s kingdom in our lives, families, and churches.

To be the church on the edge and to model the life and teachings of Christ means we must be willing to, in the words of Colossians 1:24, fill up “what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.”

This often misunderstood verse simply means that as the church, we are the body of Christ in this world, and just as Jesus suffered at the hands of those ensnared by worldly ways and worldly thinking, so will we. Unfortunately, much of Jesus’ suffering, and ours as well, will come through the religious communities we are seeking to serve.

I’ll pick up here next time.

In Christ,


Check out my podcasts from Church on the Edge and my books on Kindle.



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Dan Armistead

Dan is the former pastor of Seoul International Baptist Church and Adjunct Professor at Torch Trinity Graduate University in Seoul, Korea.