I had never driven through Providence before, at least not as the navigator. We were on our way to Foxborough Stadium (outside of Boston) to see a concert, in a minivan with a handful of my teenage friends. We piloted our way through the city as best we knew how, but things did not look right. If we were closing in on Boston, why were trees becoming more dense and more prevalent? Instead of signs for Boston, I began to see signs for Cape Cod – uh oh. We were headed east instead of north. The trees were a clue, the signs were a sure indicator.
Thank God for signs, without them we would have hit the shoreline and never made it to the concert, we were a little late as it was. Without signs, without guides in life, we would not know where we are going. Just as we need signs on the highway, so we need markers in our spiritual life to know that we are headed in the right direction.
Many have undertaken to cull out of Scripture a pathway for spiritual growth. For the purposes of laying out such a pathway for all of you at Glory Chapel, we are going to borrow from the work of others. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, popularized this model though others laid out similar models in books on discipleship even ahead of him. He envisioned the spiritual life like a baseball diamond:
He defined the four stages of spiritual growth as: Knowing Christ, Growing in Christ, Serving Christ and Sharing Christ. We are going to alter the final stage slightly and change it to “Leading Others in Christ.” This change recognizes that as we mature, we get to the point where we are influencing others more intentionally. This will involve, as “Sharing Christ” implies, evangelism but our stage will also encompass other forms of informal (such as mentoring) and formal (such as leading a ministry) leadership and influence.
And so we will use this paradigm as we talk about spiritual growth at Glory Chapel, as we help you to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ. These guideposts will help you to identify where you are in your journey with Jesus Christ, so that you can know how to keeping “moving forward” in your relationship with him as well as knowing how to grow in the stage that you are currently in. Moreover, as we design learning opportunities (classes, seminars, teaching series), we will design them around these stages of spiritual growth.
As with any model, it has its limits. It is not perfect. A relationship with Jesus is not a machine or a formula, he grows people in different ways. So do not take this to be the “end all, be all.” It is just a useful guide to help guide your growth, a rule of thumb not a precision measure. It is a way of organizing what we do at church, so that we are being intentional about helping people to grow.
Moreover, these stages of growth should not be considered badges of honor or scarlet letters of shame. One person is not better than another because they “made it” to “Serving Christ” and another is not worse off because they are still getting to “Know Christ.” We certainly do not want to use these stages as a comparison to others. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” – Galatians 5:26.
Instead, let’s approach our spiritual growth with humility and dependence on God. Let’s strive to grow and lay hold of the tools that God has given us for growth. And let’s encourage one another to remain on this path of discipleship until Jesus returns.
Over the next month, I will layout more detail around each of these stages of spiritual growth, to help you discern where you are at and how you can grow. So come on back!