Growing in Faith
Perspectives on Spiritual Growth
Spirituality is important to people. A 2008 study of the National Opinion Research Center (USA) found that 65% of respondents considered themselves to be spiritual and/or religious; 23% said they were spiritual but not religious; and 12% were neither religious nor spiritual.
Spiritual growth is defined as the development of an individual’s personal sense of spirituality. It is the process of increasing in our ability to love God, others, and ourselves. Self-definition of spirituality may vary with individuals. Some will define spiritually in very conventional ways while others hold less conventional views.
Spiritual growth is the theme of psychiatrist Scott Peck in his highly popular book, The Road Less Traveled. Two assumptions about spiritual growth are foundational: Peck makes no distinction between the mind and the spirit. Spiritual growth and mental growth are one and the same. Second, the process of such growth is a complex, arduous, and continuous task. Following our paths of spiritual growth is a lifelong journey.
Life is a series of problems. Dr. Peck says that discipline provides the set of tools to solve life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. Spiritual growth is about solving life’s problems. It is the building of character. The extreme opposite of this is a character disorder.
Jesus called upon his earliest followers to “make disciples.” To be a disciple is to be a practitioner of discipline. To be a disciple is to evolve to spiritually higher levels. Discipline is the means of spiritual growth; love provides the motivation for discipline. Love is defined as: The will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.
Principles for Spiritual Growth
- Spiritual growth and engagement are related. High levels of engagement produce greater spiritual commitment and result in spiritual growth.
- Spiritual growth is relational. Engagement is the emotional feeling of belonging, of being valued and of making valuable contributions within a congregation or community.
- Engagement is more than involvement in church activities. Engagement is about being “wholehearted” and “all in”. Engagement is personal ownership of the mission of the congregation.
- There is a continuum of spiritual growth that can be seen as stages of faith or as self-actualization in the realization of human needs.
- The role of the church to individuals is of primary influence in the early stages of spiritual growth then it shifts to secondary influence when personal spiritual practices become more important as the building blocks of spiritual growth.
- Spiritual growth never stops for an individual. There is always a next step. It’s a lifelong journey.
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©2016 Don Eastman