Okay. Day 3 of 2017. By now you’re probably feeling pretty dang good about the momentum you can sense is about to develop behind the 3 days of successfully keeping that New Year’s Resolution. Good for you! Here’s to Day 4. And if you want to keep that ball rollin’ you’re probably looking for some help, amirite?
Lucky for you, there’s Google. And probably a vast array of people on planet Earth trying to do what you’re doing. Oh, and Wikipedia. There’s that, too. Yep, you’re all set.
All this talk of forward motion makes me wonder about something I started thinking months ago. Let me set the table for us.
Several months ago, I was sitting in a staff planning meeting with a consultant, listening to principles of growth. While I took copious notes (okay, I mostly doodled), I thought about spiritual growth. And then I thought about how growth happens. And then most importantly, I thought about what Jesus said about it. You know what? It’s surprisingly little.
But before we talk about that, let’s talk about the concept of systematizing spiritual growth. Because as I absorbed that information in that meeting, I reflected on if systematizing spiritual growth is even a good idea. And just to be clear: I think it is. And I think it isn’t. And I think I’d like to know what you think about it. (Comment below.)
Cutting to the chase a bit, I felt that the perceived message being communicated by this consultant was something like this: “If you have the right system, and if you do that system just right, you will grow. And growth is what you want.” Now, let me say that I absolutely believe that growth is good and even expected when it comes to our spiritual understanding and maturity. There’s plenty of scripture that shouts that truth.
Some good questions to ask:
- When it comes to spiritual growth, what should the (your/our) plan be?
- Are there dangers hiding within the concept of systematizing spiritual growth?
- What are the benefits of progressing in spiritual maturity with a plan, as opposed to no plan? Does growth typically happen apart from intentionality?
We’re a people who like to know what to do. We like steps and we like to follow steps. We feel empowered by “How To’s” and practicality trumps principle almost without exception. Countless start-ups become behemoth companies on the concept of simple steps. But what role does that play in spiritual growth? What are the “steps”?
What did Jesus tell His followers to do before He peaced out? He said, “Make disciples.” And HOW did Jesus tell His followers to do that?
This, my friends, presents us with a gloriously spacious perspective on “How To” do what Jesus told us to do. As I’ve heard it said before, the message is non-negotiable while the method is almost always up for grabs.
So, are we right to create “tracks” for growth? Are we in the clear to create “steps” toward Jesus-likeness? You know what? I think we are. Just as long as we understand that what beats at the heart of people growing toward Jesus is the heartbeat of the Father. The Father who gave the Son to expand the family to include you. The level of growth God wants for you is exactly equal to the level of affection that would cause you to speak to Him intimately and speak of Him passionately. Is growth the point? Well, kind of. But I think growth for its own sake is like going to the gym to get bigger muscles with no need for bigger muscles.
The call on our lives is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. AND to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Do that for the rest of your days and you’ll never stop growing.