According to a survey by Barna Institute, spiritual growth is important to tens of millions of people. Christians reported a wide range of activities to promote growth: participating in a small group, 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 year.
Why are we not growing?
We have our own stresses: Mountains of laundry wait, errands beckon, and 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 bargain. I offer God a well-intended promise. As soon as things calm down I will spend more time with Him. But, things rarely calm down.
Then there is our general complacency 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.
Imperceptibly, spiritual stagnation has set in.
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 the Lord. We would go. Then God presented them with another step. Upon taking the next step, their faith grew, maturity emerged...
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 task: 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 1:2)
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. His growth halted.
Time and time again, we see God calling people to take the next step. My desired version of life, however, too often yearns for the plateau of peace. It’s the place — if I am really honest — I prefer to go. After climbing the steep slopes of unexpected challenges and disappointments, falling into valleys of regrets and failures, then clawing my way over the final rim, I finally arrive at the safe place where I can finally rest. No more steps.
But to grow we need to stay in motion. We must depart the safe zone. It’s the place the rich, young ruler did not want to leave.
Sigh. Let me rest.
But really… 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 to go? 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 proverbial boat. Go to Nineveh, cross the Red Sea, leave Ur, build an ark, reach out to the leper.
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 the comfort zone puts us at risk of failure or getting hurt. But over-protection from these problems, creates the greater risk of stagnation. The potholes, the crazy drivers, and yes, the wrong turns each teach valuable lessons.
Don’t be satisfied with plateau-life.
Instead recognize the hunger our soul’s have for meaningful impact in the kingdom of God. As we respond to God’s call, faith matures. Twelve months will go by and you’ll be astounded by your growth.