Maturing and equipping involves developing new thinking until we “bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and those thoughts are manifested in our speech, motivations, goals, ethics, etc. We continually work in order to transform spiritual infants into mature followers of Christ, thereby empowering them to have victory over the tyranny of the domineering proclivities of our fallen flesh. Maturing is the process of conforming every area of the believer’s being to the new life given at regeneration, which is righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).
The approach of making the Scripture relevant to the carnal and lost in the regular assembling of the church trivializes and marginalizes the maturing and equipping of God’s people, and thereby undermines the work of the kingdom. Babes must be matured, and if they are not, their guardians are at best neglectful and maybe even cruel. True training and maturing of the saints does not happen by superficial teaching of the Scripture, merely by attending a seminar, or in a few minutes a week.
Rather it is the product of years of teaching and training by faithful shepherds, as well as a hunger by the believer to know and be used of God. This transforms babes who need immediate and constant attention into ambassadors sacrificially advancing the kingdom of God in the context of history where God has placed them. That is what equipping and maturing is all about. Equipping is to biblically teach and train believers in order to make them relevant to the worship of the King and work of the kingdom in the cultural milieu in which God has sovereignly placed them. That is what the shepherds and the church do. The gathering of God’s people is not primarily to evangelize the lost; that is what mature believers should do when they go out into the world.
Once a person is born again, he begins his spiritual journey as a babe in Christ. He only will experience being and doing what God wants him to be and do if he matures. Therefore, to a large degree, a believer determines how much God will use him in the future by his willingness to be equipped today. When has someone had enough equipping? It is far too common, even in conservative evangelical churches, to hear comments that communicate, “There is too much teaching or preaching.” So when should a shepherd begin to de-emphasize the substantive teaching of the Word of God? According to Ephesians 4:11-16, Never! This passage delineates the benchmarks pastors are striving for in maturing the saints.