Friday, May 6, 2011

How Can We Score Spiritual Maturity?

The following article comes from Scot McKnight's  Jesus Creed  blog (excellent work, brilliant scholar).  McKnight features a summary of George Barna's latest work, Maximum Faith.  The following excerpt is Barna's stepping stones on a faith walk.  The percentages represent where people step, and then stop on the journey toward maturity or what Barna calls "wholeness".



1. Ignorance of the concept or existence of sin. 1%


2. Aware of and indifferent to sin. 16%


3. Concerned about the implications of personal sin. 39%


4. Confess sins and ask Jesus Christ to be their Savior. 9%


5. Commitment to faith activities. 24%


6. Experience a prolonged period of spiritual discontent. 6%


7. Experiencing personal brokenness. 3%


8. Choosing to surrender and submit fully to God: radical dependence. 1%


9. Enjoying a profound intimacy with and love for God. 0.5%


10. Experiencing a profound compassion and love for humanity. 0.5%


McKnight then concludes with this question and summary from Barna:

What do you think of this schematic display of spiritual progress? Anything to add? subtract?
Barna thinks most are in a “mindless mutiny” and in a “hopeless meandering.” And he thinks many, many stop on the path. He sees five paths:


1. Moving sequentially: some go from 1 to 10. Others try other methods.


2. Settling for religiosity: some get to stop #6 and choose to settle for #5.


3. Exploiting cheap grace: they get to #6 and revert back to #2.


4. Becoming angry with God: they go through #6 but when they get to #7 they become angry with a God who would subject them to such a process of testing, and they often return as well to #2.


5. Traveling the biblical path: they leap from #3 to #7 and move onwards.

Now back to Carol's thoughts:  how is this analysis helpful, is it even relevant (would love your thoughts on that question)?  I think too often we live as faith is a concept--which we agree or disagree,  not the reality of simply who we are.
It's an important distinction, because holding faith hostage to a concept keeps us in control.  We manage it--with varying degrees of sincerity (victory in church speak).    Barna's categories and data seem to look at the concept side of faith, unless we dig into the nature of his descriptive and the idea of wholeness. 

Wholeness should not stop at  the absence of sin, described in Barna's categories 1-5.  Categories 6-10 are wholeness in experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit.  The second segment of categories describe the reality of  living, breathing, feeling, valuing,  acting and reacting in concert with the real presence of Christ.  It's what Friday night and Monday morning look like when the reality of faith--the indwelling--is obvious and in control.  Not mystical but practical. 

Barna's works points to the beautiful truth that faith is not just the absence of sin but the presence of a power that moves and sees and cares about all things with love.

So, where do you "stop" on the path?  Do you think the Barna description is helpful or tripe?

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?