Monday, May 11, 2009

Barna on Spiritual Maturity

The Barna Group recently released some research about spiritual maturity. In it they identify five challenges to facilitating people's spiritual maturity.

1. Most Christians equate maturity with following the rules.

In my denomination, I can definitely vouch for this. Growing up, when people said "faithful Christian" they meant that person attended worship services. As though the mere act of attending somehow meant the person was growing in the Lord and seeking Him in their daily lives.

2. Most churchgoers are not clear what their church expects in terms of spiritual maturity.

In my experience, this is true as well. Our church talks a lot about bringing everyone to maturity but I have only a very fuzzy picture of what they actually mean by this. I think in part they don't want to be viewed as legalistic and therefor don't want to have a "checklist" for maturity.

3. Most Christians offer one-dimensional views of personal spiritual maturity.

I have to admit I will have to sit and think for a minute to answer that question. I think I would have to fall back on my landscape architecture background and look at plants. Plants are considered mature when they bear fruit. Fruit being something that is able to reproduce the first plant. So evangelizing would be one aspect. Jesus also says in John that we are to remain in Him where we will bear much fruit. So seeking the Lord and doing what he is doing would be another aspect of maturity. Seeking involves effort. So in would come the spiritual disciplines. And, of course, using the Bible and listening to the Holy Spirit for everyday decision making like parenting, money, career choices, etc. A willingness to look honestly at their lives and change to fit what the Lord calls them to. Not holding sin close and being willing to confess sin to actual people also comes to mind.

4. Most pastors struggle with feeling the relevance as well as articulating a specific set of objectives for spirituality, often favoring activities over attitudes.

Not being a pastor, I can't really comment on this. I did find it interesting that Barna mentioned that most pastors did not think spiritual maturity was a problem in their churches.

5. Pastors are surprisingly vague about the biblical references they use to chart spiritual maturity for people.

This might anger a lot of people, but here I go. I would say that this is because many pastors are not very spiritually mature themselves. For example, my dad was a minister at our church when I was growing up. But I would say that he wasn't a very spiritually mature person. (For those of you horrified that he might read this. . . My father passed away a few years ago.) I loved him a lot, but spiritual maturity was not his strong suit. He was hired because he had all the right certificates and degrees and could speak well. Often elders are chosen because they have been going to the church for a long time and don't have a history of being abusive or drunkards and are decent businessmen in the community. This does not necessarily mean that they are mature in Christ. Sadly, in my denomination spiritual maturity has been neglected for so long there are often whole congregations without any mature people in them.

I know that I have a long way to grow myself. Maturity is something I will have to continue to seek many more years. I don't think that it is something that we ever fully arrive at. But each year I hope that the Master continues to prune me and make me more fruitful for his kingdom.

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