This week covered the stages of spiritual growth, the basic characteristics and needs of each stage, and key phrases people in each stage may say. This week was very helpful to me in showing that discipleship is a process, and just because someone has yet to mature beyond a certain stage, it doesn’t mean that they do not know Jesus. I also learned where I was in this process, and that even though I may mostly be in one stage, I can still have moments where I may say or do things from a previous stage or even the next stage. I am still a flawed person in the process of growing, changing, and becoming, and just because I grow, it doesn’t mean I won’t have a bad day, or selfish moments, or a bad attitude at times.
We were cautioned to not fall into the trap of comparing levels of spiritual maturity, and also cautioned to not mistake Bible knowledge, years of church attendance, age, education, etc., for spiritual maturity. This is a guide to help me discern where people may be in their process based on a relationship with them, in order to help them continue growing. It’s a tool for growth, not a weapon for judgment.
Stage Two: The Spiritual Infant
Some spiritual infants have been Christians for a long time, but are stuck in this stage. They never grew up spiritually after they were saved. – from Real-Life Discipleship
Spiritual infants are characterized by ignorance, confusion, and dependence.
Spiritual infants don’t know much about biblical truth. They may mix a little of several religions and cultural beliefs with Christianity because they don’t know any better. – from Real-Life Discipleship
- Ignorance. They do not study God’s Word, so they don’t know what it teaches. They need to be taught truth, but they must also be willing to leave old beliefs, cultures, customs, and traditions behind when those things conflict with the teachings of the Bible. Clinging to cultural heritage and traditions can be a stumbling block to many people when they don’t know how to discern between things that do and do not conflict with God’s word.
- Confusion. This is a by-product of ignorance. When people don’t study the Bible, they don’t know what it teaches, so they end up confused.
- Dependence. There is no way that they can grow by themselves. They must rely on other people to tell them what the Bible teaches about being a Christ follower. That is why I believe the source of their information is extremely important, and should never come from just one person.
Spiritual infants may say things like:
- “Why do I need to go to church?”
- “It’s just me and God. I don’t need anybody else.”
- “If I pray and read my Bible, will I be good enough?”
- “I don’t have time for/need church. I have to work/don’t fit in/am uncomfortable.”
- “I didn’t know the Bible said that.”
- “Does God let dead people, like my Grandma, visit us to give us messages from Him?”
A spiritual infant needs the personal attention of a disciple-maker who will teach and model the truths of the Christian faith, offer care and protection during this vulnerable stage, and help them develop new habits (weekly church attendance, tithing, regular Bible reading, forgiving others, putting off sin, etc.) by which to live. We must be patient and show love. We must pray for their minds, and its protection. We must realize that some spiritual infants, especially adults, may carry a lot of spiritual baggage from false religions, past history, and cultural upbringing. Those thought patterns and beliefs cannot be changed unless they are willing to allow God to change them. And we can’t attack what they see as their identity. We must carefully speak truth when we have the opportunity, and pray for their eyes to be opened. But they must be willing to lay down the chains of their past.
Stage Three: The Spiritual Child
Stage Four: The Spiritual Young Adult
Stage Five: The Spiritual Parent