To a believer, the concept of growth is synonymous with spiritual maturity (rightfully so)! Growth is an essential part of life because it is one possible way to measure how people live their lives. A common rhetoric most people hear as a child transitioning from adolescence through adulthood is how much a person has physically grown over the past years. Though people have a general sense of what growth ought to be in a physical sense, spiritual growth, at times, could be a nebulous concept because it is only perceived from a spiritual sense. Perhaps believers have presupposed their conclusions through reading the Scripture or living life, whereas others may have learned something from a sermon. Regardless of how we came to our understanding of (spiritual) growth, one thing to consider is our presuppositions as it relates to what we believe growth ought to be. What I am suggesting is that spiritual growth can be measured through other means, not just through a spiritual lens.

Believers are generally taught that spiritual growth is when a believer begins to mature in their faith by having a more intimate relationship with God through prayer and reading the Scripture (Heb. 6). This perspective is generally correct because believers ought to have a deeper relationship with God as they become mature Christians, however this is only one component of spiritual growth. Other components of spiritual maturity indicate a change in the believer that is enabled through the power of the Holy Spirit.

For believers to experience spiritual maturity, the Bible affirms the need for people to grow in their thinking and their actions (1 Cor. 14:20, 2 Pet. 1:5-10, 2 Tim. 2:14-19). Believers are instructed to supplement their thinking with action because gaining knowledge can only do so much for an individual. If a person does not grow in how they think, then they would experience hardships as they try to grow through action. Take for example the concept of faith.

Many of us have heard how faith is belief in something despite reason (or something of that nature) as it relates to Christianity and the existence of God. Many believers held on to this ideology for a long time because it was presupposed “truth,” however a spiritually maturing believer ought to consider if this definition of faith is charitable to the nature of faith as it is described in the Bible. Is faith truly belief in something that cannot be seen or is there something more?

As a growing believer who is still seeking answers, I cannot help but reject these definitions because God seems to be methodical and critical. What if faith is not belief in something that is unseen, but rather belief in something because there is good evidence/reason to believe? A renowned philosopher/theologian once illustrated this point by talking about an appendectomy.

If someone is in need of a surgery and goes to a surgeon’s office, a person is going to assume that the surgeon knows what they are doing because of empirical evidence (e.g. doctor’s coat, hospital office, stethoscope, etc.). Though there could be underlying apprehension about receiving a surgery, patients are likely to receive surgery because of faith. There is good reason for a patient to believe that they will fully recover from the surgery because of the surgeon that is operating on the patient. This illustration demonstrates how faith might not be an illogical concept, but rather one that stems from reason.

A believer ought to grow into a spiritually mature believer by supplementing their spiritual disciplines with both thinking and action. Thinking can help believers deconstruct presuppositions and reconstruction a healthy framework for belief and biblical concepts (i.e. loving your neighbor, caring for the poor, etc.), which could open the door for healthy actions to take place. A believer ought to consider the best ways to “love their neighbor,” think of appropriate actions, and then execute them because this is what we are tasked to do.

One of the best ways for people to experience growth is to find ways to be a part of a church community. Joining small groups, serving in the church (or parachurch), or even talking to other believers about faith are great steps that anyone can take. In a practical sense, a believer could make time to regularly attend a small group, serve the church by joining a ministry team or volunteering as a teacher, or listen to sermons/lectures and talk about what they agree and disagree with.

The key takeaway for spiritual growth and maturity is that it is not something that happens on an individual basis. Through growth and maturity is something that happens within an individual, the process itself stems from immersion with the church (ekklesia: gathering of believers). Rather than trying to do everything on your own, my encouragement to all believers is to do life with members of the church because the Scriptures constantly point towards a communal faith, not an individualistic faith.

Pastor James Lee