Gauging The Spirituality of a Christian Part 2
This is Part 2 of our discussion on gauging the spirituality of Christian Congregations.
Now we will compare the “common” perspective to the “Biblical” perspective” of gauging spirituality.
How do you as a church leader gauge the spirituality of your congregation?
We would suggest that church attendance is too frequently the main criteria by which the spirituality of believers is gauged. If church attendance is the main criteria used to gauge spirituality, then a person can be incorrectly concluded to be spiritually healthy.
Unfortunately, most leaders don't have the time to delve into the spiritual condition of the typical individual in the church. (This is how DTI helps church leaders – training faithful men and women to spiritually mentor new(er) believers to help accelerate their growth.)
Certainly church attendance indicates some level of interest. It’s reasonable to think that if a person attends on a Sunday morning that they do have an interest. And if they have an interest, then they ought to benefit from what is spoken to them.
That is good; however there are other criteria that should be considered, in addition to church attendance.
The illustration of the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea will help to make our point.
They both have input but only one body of water is healthy and the other is dead. The Dead Sea receives a fresh flow of input, but then it stays there and stagnates. On the other hand, (the healthy) Sea of Galilee also receives a fresh flow, but the water goes out. In the same way, there needs to be an inflow and an outflow in a believer’s life.
There needs to be a flow of His life through the believer.
Jesus said the believer is a branch. The purpose of a branch is to be a conduit through which the life of the tree flows and produces fruit.
The branch does not produce the fruit. The tree produces the fruit. The life of the tree flows through the branch and produces the fruit. We are branches. A healthy branch is a branch in which the life of the tree is able to flow, so that there will be fruit.
Jesus said that “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.” It's the Holy Spirit’s spiritual fruit that glorifies God.
(When we talk about fruit - in our materials and discussions - we are always referring to whatever the Holy Spirit produces through your life.)
Now, let’s separate the typical church congregation into four categories, describing the believers from the perspective of observable outward human appearance. As we make a comparison of believers, we would like you to think about how you as a leader observe and gauge the spirituality of those in each category.
The first category is those we’ll call “Spiritual”. These Christians appear to have wholeheartedly acknowledged His Lordship over their lives, have a healthy growing relationship with the Lord, and seem to be bearing spiritual fruit. They have an observable passion for the Lord. We can all identify people that fit into that category; Healthy growing Christians.
The fourth category is the “Unsaved”. These individuals are usually recognized as being unsaved. It’s typically not too difficult to identify people that are unsaved, although we know that only God can really make that determination.
The second category is what we call “Acceptable”. These Christians don’t exhibit excessive negative outward behavior. They may regularly attend church services, give financially, and be involved in other Christian activities. They will quickly acknowledge God’s presence in their lives, but do not exhibit much passion for the Lord, or understanding of wholehearted surrender to His Lordship.
We are all aware of Christians that have attended church services for years and then all of a sudden some negative behavior will come out that amazes you. These people seem to be okay if you just look at their outward behavior.
In the common church environment in the United States a Christian can appear to be leading an appropriate spiritual life by attending church services, Bible studies, Small Groups, etc. However that doesn't make them spiritual. As we said, that is often the gauge for measuring spirituality.
So when we hear that a Christian couple has been attending church services for 20 years and now they're getting a divorce, you have to scratch your head and wonder what’s been going on (in their lives). Because the truth is, you don't just wake up one morning and say, “today looks like a good day to get a divorce!” Divorce is the end result of a process that has gone on for months and maybe years.
So Christians can be totally out of fellowship with God and attend church services and appear to be spiritual. We see this repeatedly. These people would generally fall into the “acceptable” category by many church leaders.
The third category is Christians that are usually considered to be “in need of counseling”. Their “self-dependent” (carnal) pattern of thinking is more evident, as they tend to exhibit questionable negative outward behavior, such as on-going marriage, relational or financial problems, addictions, etc. They may or may not regularly attend church services, or consistently give financially. They may be involved in some Christian activities. They will quickly acknowledge God’s presence in their lives. Counseling is often seen as the recommended recourse. Their salvation may be in doubt.
In reality, we believe the second and third categories from God's perspective are one category. But from our human perspective, the major difference between the two groups is that in the third group their sins are more outwardly visible, and in the second their sins are not as apparent.
There are Christians who have a hard time hiding their problems, but then there are other Christians that are very good at hiding their problems.
In reality does God see a difference between the two groups? No.
Do we see a difference? Yes.
So we have a group of Christians that don't have significant visible problems but in reality are dominated by problems. These Christians are not walking in the Spirit but they can appear reasonably healthy.
An unhealthy Christian that doesn't have outward manifestations of sin can look healthy compared to the Christian that is obviously having problems like marriage or relational issues or other problems.
But what we need to do is compare these two groups to the “Spiritual” group and now you have a completely different situation – We call this a distorted view of the spirituality of the Body of believers.
How can we recognize those that fall into the middle two categories?
In most Christian churches, many people that are considered healthy don't show any spiritual passion, have very little impact in their sphere of influence. They are not witnessing and (we) don't see God active in their life - but yet they attend church services weekly.
What can you say to these people? You can't say, “Hey, you're not spiritual.”
We need God’s discernment as we observe other Christian’s lives. We need to be aware so that we can help those Christians that want to grow. There are a lot of Christians that want to grow, but they need someone who is willing to come alongside of them to help them grow.
This is what DTI is all about. This whole discussion is to be able to better identify what is going on (in the churches) so that we can help those Christians that want to grow.
Category One is the “normal” Christian life, the other categories are “abnormal”. We should not gauge spirituality “on the curve”, and we should not be satisfied with anything less than God’s best.
Watch this video to here Art Barkley, teach lesson 2-3 in a live class.