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The Barna Group has just released an interesting study that gets to the heart of something I have felt about American faith for some time: a lack of clarity on what it means to “be” or to “make” a disciple.
According to the study, the biggest challenges to spiritual growth are lack of clear definitions, expectations, and guidelines, and a tendency to equate spiritual maturity with "following the rules."
I would add to this list the challenging fact that a lot of groups that are actually promoting spiritual growth or maturity often promote more of a “weirding” than sustainable growth. It is absolutely important to connect your faith to your everyday life, but that needs to happen in a way that draws people in, rather than in a way that makes outsiders feel alienated and judged.
Personally, I have tended to make a four-fold equation: spiritual growth = discipleship = becoming more like Jesus = becoming more human. Facilitating spiritual growth, then, has more to do with coming along side the work that Jesus is already doing in a person's life, rather than trying to convince them to adopt a particular practice or behavior.
I have some sense of the mechanisms involved in this process—off the top of my head, community, solitude, the Bible, and the grace of God all play an indispensable part.
In any case, it’s probably a topic worth more deliberate thought.
What do you think? What is spiritual growth, and how should we pursue it as Christians? What is your practice for spiritual growth?
Here is a link to the article, if you missed it above: http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/264-many-churchgoers-and-faith-leaders-struggle-to-define-spiritual-maturity