I've had some interesting discussions over the past week in two separate small groups on spiritual maturity and spiritual comfort zones. While some subscribe to the theory that Christians should live in "safe zones" - at Legacy Dad and in the men's ministry I lead, we try to meet men wherever they are and get them out of their comfort zone and on to the next level of spiritual maturity. Take an honest look at the following descriptions and decide where you are walking in your personal life.
1. The Susceptible Christian.
People who are still new or inexperienced are susceptible to stumbling in the area of doubtful things. We are warned not to put stumbling blocks in their path. Children, teenagers, and new Christians need careful attention. In my opinion, the church spends a lot of time trying to entertain and protect our susceptible Christians and not enough time educating them and helping them walk in faith. The Susceptible Christian is really a developmental period on the way to deeper spiritual maturity but quite often, these Christians spend a lot longer time than needed in this developmental period. However, a person could attend or be involved with a church for years and still show these traits if they were never properly addressed somewhere in their faith journey.
2. The Mature, Uncommitted Christian.
These Christians have probably attended or been around the faith for quite some time but they are often holding back or run for the doors when the service is over. They realize God and faith is an important part of their lives but they often keep one foot in the world and keep God at arm's length. They attend church and maybe a small group but are still shallow in their walk with Christ. Faith to them is more ritual or a weekly item on a checklist than a daily walk with Christ. Many of these Christians have never been held accountable in their faith nor do they practice or walk in their faith on a consistent, daily basis.
3. The Immature, Committed Christian.
These Christians are not necessarily immature in the sense of lacking knowledge or commitment but their immaturity shows up in their injudicious practice and actions. These Christians are often excited about their faith and share it freely but may have some legalistic views which show up in how they treat others. These Christians may overemphasize religious knowledge over a change of the heart or Christ-like actions. These Christians often have a hard time being authentic and transparent and defer to an external appearance of faith. These Christians are often committed attendees and are staples of small groups but still lack some spiritual depth in one area or another.
4. The Safe, Committed Christian.
The safe Christian is often the most difficult because they are by nature, self-righteous. First, they have settled for a simplistic often legalistic view of spirituality. They believe a mature Christian is the one with the most head knowledge and the one with the smallest "safe" comfort zones. Gray does not exist for them; their world is black and white. Second, they believe you demonstrate spirituality by adhering to a narrow, list of "do's" and "don'ts" and often build Christian "safe zones" to protect themselves and their families from a perceived evil which could be the secular world, varying theological opinions or anything that does not conform to their worldview. Third, and most serious, these Christians expect all others to conform to their lists, boundaries and beliefs and are often skeptical of those outside their safe zones. They are uncomfortable outside their "safe zones" which makes them lash out in unloving, offensive ways to those outside their "safe zones". This type of Christian is usually a devoted follower and church attendee however, they believe that they must have strict rules and build environments to try to keep influence and sin out of their lives and away from their families.
5. The Mature, Committed Christian.
This Christian understands Biblical doctrine and theology but also realizes God has granted man freedom and liberty. This Christian is a balance of grace and truth and self analyzes whether they are being too rigid or too liberal in all areas. This Christian consistently practices their faith both personally and corporately and they realize that while theological and Scriptural knowledge is needed, it is useless unless it materializes in a change of heart and actions in themselves. They realize that their faith needs to be evidenced in Fruit of the Spirit and they welcome accountability from others to obtain the Fruit. This person is comfortable in spiritual or moral "gray areas" where they may be engaged with people of other faiths, atheists or situations where sin is occurring as they are able to exercise discipline, restraint and not be influenced or swayed. They believe in a large comfort zone and often venture outside of it to engage the world in a nonthreatening, loving manner which avoids unnecessary offense. They see everyone as God's children and exercise their faith in a passionate love for God that demonstrates itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others.
Looking over this list, you probably saw yourself in one of these categories at times throughout your life and probably default to one or two categories consistently? The question we must ask is that if we are not where we want to be, how to we get there?
This is not an easy answer but I believe there are some key elements involved:
- Read God's Word Daily - Get in a daily habit of reading God's word.
- Understand Biblical Doctrine - The 5W's of the Christian Faith - Start Here if you need a reference, it's free
- Apply God's Word in Actions - Read Galatians 5:22-23 and ask yourself if you are living these in every area of your life
- Associate with Mature Christians - Find a weekly group of mature, committed Christians and ask to learn and live life with them.
- Seek Accountability - We grow when we are held to a loving standard. Sometimes we need some motivation to stay consistent.
Dante and I both lead Men's Ministries that incorporate all the above elements and for the men who step up to this challenge, they are forever changed.