According to a recent survey by the Barna Institute, spiritual growth is very important to tens of millions of people. Christians reported a wide range of activities to promote growth: participating in small groups, doing Bible studies, and meeting with spiritual mentors.
On the same survey, however, 60% of Christians also noted that their growth has been minimal or none at all over the past 12 months.
Why are we not growing?
We have our own stresses: Mountains of laundry wait, errands beckon, another pressing meeting extends the workday. Prayer life reduces to the minimal communication of mealtime grace and thank-you-Lord-for-this-day bedtime amens. No listening ear for God’s voice. Little thought of discerning His plans for the day. So I offer a well-intended promise that as soon as things calm down I will spend more time with the Lord.
Then there is our general contentment with faith. We settle into a church home, then rely on pastors and small group leaders to guide us into maturity. Church is indeed critical in our faith development. But something is not working if most of us report little spiritual growth over the course of a year.
What is the solution for spiritual stagnation?
Motion. The solution is motion. By its very nature, the spiritual journey is about movement.
Story after biblical story show people in motion. Sometimes they are backward steps but with every step, they (and we) learn. Faithful men and women lived their days seeking to please to the Lord, then God presented them with yet another step. Upon taking the next step, their faith grew even more…
Noah lived a righteous life and found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). Therefore, he rested? No, he received a god-sized assignment: Build an ark.
To Jonah who worshiped the one true God, Yahweh called him to “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach…” (Jonah 1:1)
To the humble, highly-favored Mary, the angel delivered the complicated next step, “You will be with child and give birth to a son…” (Luke 1:31)
To the rich, young ruler who lived a godly life, Jesus said “Go, sell everything and give to the poor…” (Mark 10:21) He didn’t and his growth stopped.
Time and time again, we see God calling people to take the next step. My version of life, however, includes the plateau of peace. It’s the place I love to go. After climbing steep slopes of unexpected challenges and disappointments, falling into valleys of regrets and failures, then clawing my way over the rim, I finally arrive at the safe place where I can rest. No more steps.
But to grow, we must leave this safe place. It’s the place the rich, young ruler did not want to leave.
Ugh. Let me rest. But …
Where is the faith-stretching exercise in doing the same thing every hour of every day? How can we grow in our relationship with the Lord if we ignore His promptings? How do we learn to trust Him if we do not go where only He can take us?
We need to step out of the boat. Go to Nineveh, cross the Red Sea, leave Ur, build an ark, reach out to the leper, touch the hem of his garment. What is your next step? Could it be to go to Zambia, cross the street, build a new ministry, or reach out to the homeless?
I get it: Leaving the comfort zone puts us at risk of failure or getting hurt. But protection from these problems, creates the greater risk of stagnation. The potholes, the crazy drivers, and yes, the wrong turns teach valuable lessons.
Don’t be satisfied with plateau life. As you respond to God’s call, faith matures. Twelve months will go by and you’ll be astounded by your growth. You have conquered spiritual stagnation.
Posted by Sharon R Hoover