Sunday, November 19, 2006

Spiritual Growth

How does someone grow spiritually? Is spiritual growth measured by the number of Bible courses a person completes? Or how many fill-in-the-blanks they've done? What really is spiritual growth?

It seems to me that the New Testament talks about spiritual growth in terms of maturity, fullness, and completion. But I have to admit that these terms don't seem to be too helpful. They're not concrete enough for me. But then again, spiritual growth isn't something as concrete as, say, completing an academic degree.

Life is like that too, isn't it? How does one measure maturity? Physically? Emotionally? Intellectually? Relationally? You can't.

In its essence, spiritual growth is intangible. When you see it, you know what it is. But it's not so easliy defined.

Pastor and author John Burke describes the elements of what is needed for spiritual growth to occur:

1. A picture of maturity.
2. A context of relationship.
3. A personal development path.

I really prefer this approach over the whole 101, 201, 301, 401 baseball diamond approach. I just don't think you can really produce disciples like toys in a factory or cars in an assembly line. There are way too many organic variables that do not neatly fit into a rigid system like that.

When I reflect on my own growth, I see that it had nothing to do with completing any "course work" or study booklets. It had a lot to do with inspiring environments which included teaching from the Bible (eg. Urbana Missions Conference at the University of Illinois), Christian friends that I could be totally open to, ministry experiences like helping start a youth group for the church I grew up in, and the books and tapes I devoured that spoke to my life so deeply. All the while, I had a picture in my heart of the kind of person I could become for the Lord.

I think that discipleship in this culture and time must be fluid and not mechanical...relationships-based rather than curriculum-based.