Let’s look at the research. The Barna Group, a respected Christian research association, surveyed Christian adults about their own discipleship.
- Four out of five believers said that having a deep, personal commitment to the Christian faith is a top priority.
- Three out of five went on to say they want to have this deep commitment but they are not currently involved in any intentional effort to grow spiritually.
Barna then notes, per the research, that the prevailing mindset among Christian adults points to a place of spiritual maintenance rather than spiritual growth. These adults have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and have learned some of the core lessons from scripture, so now they just need to stay the course.
The prevailing mindset among Christian adults points to a place of spiritual maintenance rather than spiritual growth
Perhaps a difficult truth for all of us to hear applies right now: not moving forward in faith is really moving backward.
There is no spiritual cruise control or auto-pilot. We are always called to be investing in our own walk, seeking after Christ in order to be made like him. It is a lifelong process, and even the most saintly and spiritually mature among us have not yet arrived.
I do not say this to lay guilt on anyone. Rather, perhaps we need a reminder that we’re not yet finished. Perhaps we need a fire lit under us. Perhaps we need to reevaluate our goals, in order to reevaluate our priorities, in order to reorder our daily life so we can move back out of maintenance mode. In what ways can we continue moving forward in our discipleship?
- Of the large survey done, just one in five Christian adults are actively engaged in a regular, personal spiritual development activity (besides attending a worship service).
The number of available regular activities to choose from is large. Regular scripture reading for study, regular scripture reading for prayer, regular prayers of praise, regular praise of intercession, regular bible studies at church, regular meetings with other Christians to talk about faith, and the list goes on.
In our house in the last few years, we’ve tried to make changes to some of our language. This is not about our spirituality specifically, but just about being more honest and self-aware. One example: we’ve tried to move from saying “I didn’t get time…” to “I didn’t make time…” This is an exercise in taking personal responsibility for the ways we prioritize our time. We try to use it often. From talking about household chores to bigger things like spiritual health.
It’s easy to become the victim of time. I’m not immune to feeling this way, and I’m certainly not immune to blaming the busyness of life for my lack of spiritual fervor. “I had plans to read my Bible, but I just didn’t get time.” What if we changed our language, shifting the responsibility on ourselves and the way we prioritize? “I had plans to read my Bible, but I just didn’t make time.”
That hits different. It stings a little.
The research points to the best laid plans of adult Christians. They want to be involved in healthy spiritual development. They want to go deeper in their relationship with Jesus. But at the end of the day, only about 20% have found a way to make this happen.
I’m writing today not with all the answers, but with some questions to get us thinking.
- Where do you find yourself in this conversation?
- Where would you like to find yourself?
- How can we step back and take a look at our priorities in order that we don’t find ourselves just living in maintenance mode?
May the Spirit of God be moving among us, giving us a desire to actively seek out opportunities for growth.