So let’s consider the idea of personal and spiritual growth, an important thing to do I think. As Chris said clearly on Sunday, although we have a real need for depth, for spiritual maturity, for true adulthood, our culture seems to push us toward the shallow. Even that word “adult” has been corrupted. If someone were to visit us from another world, they would probably be quite surprised at what our culture chooses to label as “adult” -- they might think that “adolescent” might be more accurate.
So what does it mean for us to grow spiritually, to “become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)? It means that we need a clear sense of both purpose and process. In other words, we need to know what we are pushing towards (a true sense of Christian maturity) and how it is we will get there.
Authors Henry Cloud and John Townsend, in their book How People Grow, state that spiritual growth inevitably requires three elements: relationship (with God and others, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), truth (Ephesians 4:15), and time (Mark 4:26-29). I have to agree with their list. Think about these three things and ask yourself some questions: what is the state of my relational life? do I have friendships that move me towards maturity and God? do I feel connected to God? what access do I give to truth? what is the truth of my life before God? and how do I live in relation to time (clock and calendar)? These are very practical and revealing questions I think. Read the suggested texts. Allow the Scriptures to draw you into a reflective pose. Do it prayerfully.
Spiritual growth is important. But perhaps the problem is that, in comparison to the many urgencies that flood our daily routines, labeling something important isn’t enough. We take a quick glance at our Bible on the side table by our favorite chair, and quickly dash out the door to spend another day pursuing the many many things that require attention now. Do you ever wonder if the urgencies will end? They won’t. You have to decide to live differently. You have to decide to pay attention to the important, not the urgent.
In Charles Hummel’s classic book Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent, we are reminded of the basic life tension between the urgent and the important. In Hummel’s model, the urgent is all that calls for our attention right now, some of which may be important, but a large part of which may simply be frivolousness. You run for a phone call, only to find a telemarketer on the other end. The ringing phone made you drop what you were doing; it was urgent, but it wasn’t important. Hummel says that, while there is a small category of things both urgent and important (a family crisis for instance), the interesting thing is how many important things lie quietly undone, unattended to.
Personal spiritual growth may well lie in that category of things we call important but not urgent. It belongs to that category we call our “someday” list: someday I will slow down enough to pay attention to my soul; someday I will read a few meaningful books; someday I will go on spiritual retreat, or go see that friend I need to speak with, or participate in that mission. Someday I will pay more attention to the gnawing feeling I have that my life is flying by me and I am not sure what it was meant to be. All important, but not today.
As we begin this fall season at Westside, consider this our invitation to participate in meaningful growth opportunities. Get connected to people who can help you grow, and change your relationship to time. Perhaps most practically, take a look at the possibilities in the grow section of this website.
In the weeks to come, we are extending an invitation to participate in our Dinners With a Purpose and our Do-It-Yourself Small groups. We will be providing prep sessions for both of these “connect and grow” opportunities in October.
When that invitation comes, I would like you to be prepared to take action. Its important that you do. Even if there are more urgent things that call for your attention.