In the 22 years I’ve been in ministry serving churches, I’ve seen a number of different shifts. And my purpose in writing this blog is not to recount or discuss those shifts but to talk about where we are now (from my perspective). It’s true that some have left the church (not speaking specifically about our local church but the church in general). Beliefs and doctrines have been challenged, twisted, misunderstood and at times communicated poorly by the church, christians and even those in leadership. People have become more secular and even “church people” have begun attending less often and being less involved in various activities and spiritual growth opportunities. For some, church is one more thing, and while some see it as “good for you” (like eating vegetables or exercising) there seems to be a waning passion for the central message and critical call on the church.
In part 1 of this series we looked at the challenge that many view spiritual activity, church attendance or the addition of new information as spiritual growth or progress. Yet spiritual progress from a biblical standpoint has more to do with becoming more like Jesus, loving others well, reorienting life and priorities etc etc. We’ve said that over the years churches have focused more on the events or programs than the outcome that those events or programs were intended to produce. This has created church-going people who have thought that the attendance at those things IS the end goal, but those things are merely tools and environments which can make progress better. In this post we’ll discuss a few things that will assist with spiritual progress. Let me be clear this post is for those who are already believers/ followers of Jesus. I don’t want to create the impression that we earn our position with God, that is ONLY by Jesus’ death and resurrection and our faith to respond/ receive His gift. Yet, I do believe in our concern that we not tell people they can do anything to earn God’s love, we’ve inadvertently communicated that faith involves NO effort on our part and that’s not true.
For some reason it seems easy to be a regular part of a church without making spiritual progress. Let me be clear, the spiritual progress I’m talking about is not people coming to faith in Jesus. I have seen lots of encouraging news about people coming to faith, becoming believers in Jesus and entrusting their lives to God. My concern is a large population of people who after becoming believers reduce their spiritual lives to attending church services, and if you’re really committed, maybe a few extra classes or a small group. This isn’t a bad thing, in fact it’s more than a lot of people in our society do. But I wonder where the emphasis is on actual spiritual progress? Even the people who seem more interested in spiritual things can confuse spiritual activity with spiritual progress. Or they confuse the attaining of biblical knowledge with spiritual growth.