Meanderings of a Minister


How Old Are You Spiritually?

Real-Life-Discipleship-book-cover

The staff at First Southern Baptist Church in Liberal have been wrestling with a question for the last several months.  “How do you get people to love Jesus more?”  We provide opportunities for people to grow spiritually, but many don’t seem interested.  While most of the people at our church would call themselves mature followers of Christ, what does that even mean?  And how do you get people to want to move further along the continuum of growth?  How do you (or they, for that matter) know where they are in their Christian growth?  At a recent meeting of the Liberal Ministerial Alliance, the pastors were talking and we all pretty much agreed that we all want Christians to mature in their faith.  What does THAT mean?

As I have wrestled with this issue, I have come across a great little resource that at least attempts to quantify the life signs of believers at the various stages of growth.  While we can certainly disagree about exactly what characteristics go where, Jim Putman at least begins the conversation in a way I found helpful.  In his book, Real-Life Discipleship, he lays out spiritual growth with the following paradigm:

Stage 1:  Spiritually Dead.  This means someone who is not born again.  They are alienated from God, opposed to God, and unable to understand the things of God.  (Revelation 20:14, John 3:3-5)

Stage 2:  Spiritual Infant.  As a new believer, they are excited and eager to learn.  They know something has changed, but really don’t know what it means.  They are quick to mention their new faith to all who will listen, but they tend to make messes because they really don’t understand how their new faith works.

Stage 3.  Spiritual Child.  Having moved past the infancy of their newfound faith, they understand the basics of the faith.  They can be excited about their faith in ways that many others consider cute.  They often act childish and often characterized by childish behavior like only do what they should when threatened or rewarded.  They are often self-centered in their interaction with church and want their way and comfort to be paramount.  They can sometimes give in and allows others to get their way if they are recognized for doing so, but this often is short-lived.

Stage 4.  Spiritual Young Adult.  By this stage, they have grown immensely from where they started.  They are eager to serve and think independently, but they have not yet learned to embrace their responsibilities as a follower of Jesus Christ.  They still have a lot to learn about meeting the spiritual needs of others.  They serve intentionally, but don’t share their faith intentionally.

Stage 5.  Spiritual Parent.  This final stage of development is when they are mature enough to reproduce disciples that will reproduce disciples.  By definition, they are reproducing.  They are not merely able to do so.  They actually do.  They actively engage in evangelism and carry through to discipleship.  They are strategic in their thinking and their lives.

If Jim Putman is right, or at least mostly right, how old are you spiritually?  Have you been born again?  Have you willingly and knowingly accepted that Jesus really is God the Son?  Has that realization caused you to reflect upon who rules your life?  Have that reflection led you to seek forgiveness for the choices you have made as though you were in charge?  Have you surrendered your life to the leadership of God through His Son?  If so, congratulations.  You might be a spiritual infant.  If not, you are still spiritually dead.

Are you excited about being a follower of Jesus, but not really sure of the difference between Christianity and other religions except that Christianity works for you?  You might be a spiritual infant.

Have you grown in your faith, but find yourself preferring your way all of the time?  Do you despise the new music, find yourself envious of others that get to have things their way?  You might be a spiritual child.

Have you grown in your faith, feel other-centered, and feel as though you have a pretty good relationship with God, but don’t have a strategic plan for evangelizing and discipling so that you are reproducing?  You might be a spiritual young adult.

Are you regularly leading people into and deeper into a relationship with Christ?  Do you find your greatest fulfillment in seeing others grow into maturity and reproduce using their Spiritual Gifts?  You might be a spiritual parent.

So…how old are you spiritually?

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