Two Tensions of Spiritual Growth in the Church

There are two primary goals in my ministry. One is to lead people into a saving relationship with Jesus. The other is to see those people grow in their faith until they reach spiritual maturity.

It sounds so simple, but it is the most complex project in the world. People have different backgrounds and personalities that lead them to learn and grow in unique ways through the various seasons of life. Through the years I have seen two tensions that make spiritual growth so complicated.

1. Attendance and Activity do not equal growth. Everyone in Church can point to that one individual or couple who attend worship every week and yet seem to be so spiritually immature. They are often selfish and frequently mean-spirited. As I clean up the mess they inevitably leave in a church, I usually think, “Regular worship has done them no good.” The hard truth is that you can attend worship, Sunday school, small group and be present every time the doors of the building are open and can still be a spiritual infant.

2. Growth is rare without attendance and activity. While attending church does not guarantee spiritual growth, I have yet to find anyone growing without it. People who try often discover that they drift toward apathy more than commitment. There is nothing to remind them of their faith decision or push them to live more deeply. They tend to gather around themselves people who agree with whatever viewpoint they maintain, and genuine growth comes through tension. Pushing back against church rarely results in the development into Christlikeness.

Every Monday I replay the events on the past Sunday. My mind rolls over everything from the sermon, the conversations and the observations I made of other people. I ask myself, “Am I accomplishing my goals in ministry?” Every week I wish there was some easy way to help people mature in their faith. If there were just four or six steps to becoming a complete Christian this project would be so much easier. I could measure where every person was on their walk with Jesus and tell them the next step clearly. Unfortunately, there is just no clear metric for spiritual growth. It doesn’t exist for the pastor or the Christian.

Each week I hope you come to worship and I hope you plan on returning the next week. It is not a guarantee of where you are in your faith, but there are people here who will keep teaching and pushing you toward a more profound faith in Jesus. You have the choice to follow their lead or ignore it. Maybe the most significant part of growth is the choice you make every week.

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