How do you define spiritual maturity?
Whatever way or method you define it, most of us would agree that there is a direct connection to discipleship and spiritual growth or maturity. A lack of intentional discipleship equals spiritual immaturity. Many of our churches are attempting to get some handles on a process/plan or strategy for spiritual growth. As we are disciplined in the faith and discipled we grow. When we are not disciplined in the faith we slide.
George Barna, thru his research, says that an unclear understanding of spiritual maturity may be an underlying reason why there is so little progress in seeing people develop spiritually in the United States, despite overwhelming access to churches and unlimited products and resources.
“America has a spiritual depth problem partly because the faith community does not have a robust definition of its spiritual goals,” David Kinnaman, Barna’s president, said. “The study shows the need for new types of spiritual metrics.”
Barna found that most Christians equate spiritual maturity with following the rules described in the Bible. Also, many churchgoers were unable to identify how their church defines spiritual maturity. Most Christians, Barna said, offer one-dimensional views of personal spiritual maturity, giving answers such as having a relationship with Jesus, living a moral lifestyle or applying the Bible.
Most pastors struggle with articulating a specific set of objectives for spirituality and instead list activities over attitudes, the study said. Pastors are willing to acknowledge that a lack of spiritual maturity is one of the largest problems in the nation, but few of them say spiritual immaturity is a problem in their church.
When Barna asked the 600-plus pastors who were part of the survey to identify biblical references to chart spiritual maturity, most gave generic responses such as “the whole Bible,” “the gospels” or “the New Testament.” Just 2 percent mentioned the Galatians 5 passage listing the fruit of the Spirit.
“One new metric might be a renewed effort on the part of leaders to articulate the outcomes of spiritual growth. Another might be the relational engagement and accountability that people maintain,” Kinnaman said.
Most Americans are relatively content with the current state of their spiritual maturity, millions aspire to grow, Barna said. Christians under the age of 40 are less satisfied with spirituality and less “rule oriented” compared to older believers.
Another positive is that pastors who were surveyed realize they need more help with assessing spiritual health.
“Perhaps churchgoers would become less complacent about self-evaluation as pastors embrace more effective forms of evaluation for their congregations,” the report said.
“Spiritual maturity is moving forward in Christ.”
It is what the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-15, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” NASU
Reaching and striving forward in Christ is the process in spiritual maturity. Simply stated it is moving forward spiritually. Hebrews 6:1a says, “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity,” NIV. Our folks, our churches need to “go on to maturity!
How do you gauge or measure your church’s spiritual condition? Here are some questions to ask.
- Are we “making disciples?”
- Do our members seek to serve or be served?
- Are we focused on kingdom growth or just our corner of the world?
- Are lives being changed because of our ministries?
- Are our members moving forward in their spiritual development?
As we disciple individual Christians in our churches one by one, we will grow and mature our church for the glory of Christ.