How to Grow Up
How do you know if you’re growing closer to Christ? Can spiritual transformation be measured? Are there benchmarks in our walk with God that help us know we're on the right path?
There are the kinds of questions Willow Creek Community Church and a band of professional researchers and statiticians began asking in 2004 when they launched the REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey. This study, conducted between 2004-2010, was used with over a quarter million people in well over a thousand churches, diverse in size, denomination, and geography. The results of this study were published in the book, Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson.
One of the interesting findings of this study suggests there is a spiritual continuum that all Christ-followers travel. This continuum includes four segments:
- Exploring Christ: The people in this segment have a basic belief in God, but they are unsure about Christ and his role in their lives.
- Growing in Christ: The people in their segment have a personal relationship with Christ. They’ve made a commitment to trust him with their souls’ salvation and for eternity, but they are just beginning to learn what it means and what it takes to develop a relationship with him.
- Close to Christ: The people in this segment depend on Christ every day. They see Christ as someone who assists them in life. On a daily basis, they turn to him for help and guidance for the issues they face.
- Christ-centered: The people in this segment would identify their relationship with Christ as the most important.
According to Hawkins and Parkinson, those who are exploring Christ are on the spiritual fringe. They are investigating the central claims of Christianity but also still struggling with believing in Christ and the gospel. They attend church but are not involved. Many of these people are may even be long-time churchgoers.
Those who’re growing in Christ are on board with the core beliefs of the Christian faith. They are comfortable with spiritual practices like prayer and Scripture reading. However, they are hesitant to take their faith outside the walls of the church. These individuals, says the REVEAL study, are poised for great spiritual impact.
Third, those who’re close to Christ are making their relationship with Jesus a part of their everyday life. They are confident in God’s presence and power. They are also connecting daily with God through spiritual practices and beginning to show signs of transformation.
Finally, Christ-centered believers are head over heels in love with God. In large part, they have surrendered secular values and given Christ control of their lives. Tithing, serving, and evangelizing are part of the rhythm of their weeks and months. Practical service, driven by love, is the defining mark of their lives.
Where are you on this continuum? At Hope, we are proud to have individuals from all over this continuum. We want people to come just as they are, but we don’t want them to stay just as they are! One of the most exciting adventures in life is growing in Christ. How are you growing in Christ? What steps are you talking to move across the spiritual continuum?
In the REVEAL study, the researchers notice as women and men grew spiritually there were three identifiable movements that happened. As you look at each of these these consider what movement you are experiencing.
Movement 1: From Exploring Christ to Growing in Christ
The movement is all about the basics. Developing firm foundations of spiritual beliefs and attitudes is critical during this trust-building phase. The impact of church activities on spiritual growth is most significant in this movement.
Movement 2: From Growing in Christ to Close to Christ
In this movement people decide that their relationship with Jesus is personal to them. It hinges on developing a routine of personal spiritual practices that make space and time for growing intimacy with Christ.
Movement 3: From Close to Christ to Christ-Centered
In last movement believers replace secular self-centeredness with Christlike self-sacrifice. They pour out their increasing love for Jesus through spiritual outreach activities, especially evangelism.