Stages of Faith

June 23, 2010

I’ve spent a lot of time this year thinking about how spiritual growth happens, and how our church community can be intentional about moving each other toward maturity. I know there are all sorts of methods and programs and models for this. Some are helpful to a degree, and some, not at all. I don’t think maturity happens through methods and models, but I do think they can create some helpful framework for dialogue. Like this one:

I found this graphic last week while reading Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero. He, in fact, borrowed it from another book called The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith. It’s captured many of my thoughts over the last few days, and stirred some good dialogue with others in Mustard Seed as well.

I see a few things in this graphic that are significant:

  • Those first three stages certainly seem to jive with my own journey, and with walking alongside so many others in practical ministry. And perhaps we walk along this road too well. I think much of my ministry experience has been leading people through these first three steps, but it tends to get pretty muddy beyond that. Some of that is because of:
  • The Wall. This was an eye opener, but makes great sense with my own experiences. There is this inevitable wall that one hits if faith. I’ve also heard it called the dark night of the soul, or the desert experience. It might come across in many different ways: doubt, crisis, sin, apathy. But it creates some kind of tension or friction that is hard to live in the midst of, but leads to:
  • Beauty on the other side. Stages 4-6 are in some ways less tangible, but stir a sense of longing for who I would want to be and what kind of people I want to be around. This is where true spiritual maturity starts to show it’s fruit.

So the question that I’m stuck with is this: How does a faith community walk people through these stages of faith? As I’ve said, I’ve seen stages 1-3 done well. They are easy to lay out for people and walk through with them. It gets a lot messier once you get to the wall and beyond. Sad to say, I think it is too common a story for people to get lost in the mix of a church when they start moving into the Wall. For a church that is focused on moving people through its stages and making its programs happen, I can see why. Life in the wall and beyond is not very efficient or measurable.

I long to live a life in the stages beyond the wall, and I want to be part of a community of people that dwell there too. But I don’t have many answers yet, other than asking the Spirit to lead the way. Which is probably the best answer of all.

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