Thursday, May 14, 2009


Green Ears of Wheat
Van Gogh, 1888

Some of you may have heard about the latest poll from The Barna Group on spirituality, which produced this headline, "Many Churchgoers and Faith Leaders Struggle to Define Spiritual Maturity." Here is the introductory paragraph to their findings:
America may possess the world’s largest infrastructure for nurturing human spirituality, complete with hundreds of thousands of houses of worship, thousands of parachurch organizations and schools, and seemingly unlimited products, resources and experts.

Yet, a new study from the Barna Group identifies an underlying reason why there is little progress in helping people develop spiritually: many churchgoers and clergy struggle to articulate a basic understanding of spiritual maturity. People aspire to be spiritually mature, but they do not know what it means. Pastors want to guide others on the path to spiritual wholeness, but they are often not clearly defining the goals or the outcomes of that process.
They found "five challenges" with regard to the subject of spiritual maturity:
  1. Most Christians equate spiritual maturity with following the rules.
  2. Most churchgoers are not clear what their church expects in terms of spiritual maturity.
  3. Most Christians offer one-dimensional views of personal spiritual maturity.
  4. Most pastors struggle with feeling the relevance as well as articulating a specific set of objectives for spirituality, often favoring activities over attitudes.
  5. Pastors are surprisingly vague about the biblical references they use to chart spiritual maturity for people.
The director of the research project pointed out the implications of their findings:
America has a spiritual depth problem partly because the faith community does not have a robust definition of its spiritual goals. The study shows the need for new types of spiritual metrics. One new metric might be a renewed effort on the part of leaders to articulate the outcomes of spiritual growth. Another might be the relational engagement and accountability that people maintain. Of course, spirituality is neither a science nor a business, so there is a natural resistance to ascribing scientific or operational standards to what most people believe is an organic process. Yet, the process of spiritual growth is neither simplistic nor without guidelines, so hard work and solid thinking in this arena is needed.
What are we to make of these findings?

1 comment:

Damaris said...

Mike --

One wise man summarized spiritual maturity in a way that will satisfy me for the rest of my life: the degree to which we love our enemies. Spiritual maturity is our growth into the likeness of God, our obeying Christ's command to be perfect. God loves His enemies, myself the chief of them. If I love my enemies, and His, too, then I am becoming like Him.

Programs and classes are good places to avoid the hard work of maturing spiritually. Christian culture nowadays often encourages the identifying of enemies, whether non-Christians, members of the media, politicians, etc. I have heard devout churchgoers say without shame that they wish they could shoot those in high office, never considering themselves guilty either of treason or lack of charity. God gives us many opportunities to grow in our faith, but if we avoid doing good to those who despitefully use us, we aren't going anywhere.

The definition is from a blog called "Glory to God for All Things," by Stephen Freeman He has some postings on liturgy that tie in well with what you've been writing.

Thank you for all the excellent, thought-provoking things you've been putting up recently.