How to Visualize Spiritual Maturity

Now that we have established the basis for our two major growth dimensions, loving God and loving others, we can begin to discuss how to measure and visualize maturity. For now, this post assumes that there is a means by which we can measure maturity (granted, a big assumption) and focuses of visualization for the purpose of reinforcing the concepts already discussed.

There are four views discussed in this section. The first is mostly a basis to begin with…a simple bar chart reflecting the current state of a disciple in terms of how far they have progressed along the knowledge, character and behavior dimensions.

Here we see that this person has grown most in knowledge, second in behavior, and third in character…a pretty typical distribution. It is not depicted, but one can easily see where phases of maturity can be drawn at various levels. If the range of maturity values is 0 to 5, perhaps phase 1 is 0-2, phase 2 is 2-4 and phase 3 is 4-5?

Now if we were break down each dimension into smaller parts using the cross-cutting themes (or categories) discussed earlier, this bar chart might look something more like the following.

Here we can see inside each of the major dimensions to understand the component pieces. This tells us what areas of knowledge, character and behavior are strong and which are weak. In the graph above, we see that this person’s attitude is very humble but not very persevering. With this information, a faith coach can target this area of weakness with disciplines aimed at building self-confidence and steadfastness unto overall perseverance.

Other views can be helpful as well. By stacking the values, we can get an aggregate view of knowledge, character and behavior.

This is basically the same data as the earlier chart, only the bars are stacked one on top of one another rather than being side-by-side. The value of the previous chart would be able to see phase levels of each theme within each dimension independently; i.e. I can clearly see that this person is a phase 3 disciple with regard to a humble character but only phase 1 with regard to a persevering character.

The value of this stacked bar chart is to see keep the aggregate knowledge, character and behavior scores (and phasing) and yet add the component pieces to see relative (as opposed to absolute) strengths and weaknesses.

Finally, it’s important to see end-to-end measurements of each of the themes.

This chart looks similar to the last chart, but you’ll notice that the themes and dimensions are reversed so we can see maturity by theme rather than by dimension. I can see were my disciple is with regard to joy, including each component piece of knowledge, character and behavior.

What is the point to all this visualization mumbo jumbo? The point is that in order to be effective as a disciple and a disciplemaker, we must have some way of understanding where we are, where we are going and how we’re going to get there. The assessment tool can be used to gain a subjective understanding on where a disciple is in their walk; graphs like these can be used to visualize the conclusions; and discussions on what activities are appropriate to strengthen weak areas may then take place. At the end of the day, it’s simply about being more intentional about becoming more like Christ.

What Does it Mean to Hear God?

Excellent question…thank you for asking! 😉

In a previous post, I introduced my view of spiritual growth, which I believe is a biblical view…please tell me if you disgaree! 

Remember there are two fundamental principles:

  • spiritual growth occurs along three dimensions: knowledge, character and behavior.
  • growth on these three dimensions occurs by iterations of hearing, believing and obeying God.

And, remember the graphic we use to discuss this subject…hopefully it is an image that helps you get your arms around this subject at a high level as we dive deeper into different elements of this complex subject.

Iterative Growth Model
Iterative Growth Model

What  we want to dive a little deeper on today is the activity of hearing God

As we’ve discussed, the purpose of the iterative growth model is to help people understand what it means to grow in Christ and how we cooperate with the Spirit during the transformation process.  Knowledge, character and behavior are the what…that is, these are attributes of our person that change.  Only the Spirit can affect this change.  Hearing, believing and obeying are activities that we are responsible for and are used by the Spirit as a tool, so to speak, in our transformation.  They are the how.  Therefore, when I talk about “hearing God” in this context, I’m talking primarily about the activities we are responsible for that the Spirit uses to increase our knowledge of Him. 

My intention is not to start a debate on non-essentials such as whether or not God speaks audibly now as he did in the past; however, one essential is necessary to move forward, and that is the sole authority of Scripture.  Everything you read on this site assumes that while God may reveal Himself in many ways, there is only one source of divine authority for faith and practice: Scripture.

There are two major categories for activities related to “Hearing God”: Scripture and Non-Scripture.  Ok, I guess that was a little patronizing…but, here’s the point.  Scripture is the only authority, and everything else is subject to it; but, that is not to say that extra-biblical sources are not helpful, of course.  Otherwise, I’m wasting my time writing this and you are wasting your time reading it.  When I am discipling someone, my first goal is to get them in the Word regularly to a) establish private bible study as a discipline, joy and priviledge, and b) develop a foundational understanding of the essential doctrines of the faith tied to Scripture directly.  My second goal is to feed them extra-biblical resources that strengthen weak areas of their understanding.  In this way, I can be an effective disciple-maker without being the best teacher.  I need only be concerned with helping the disciple develop skills of discernment…measuring everything they read against what they know to be true from Scripture.  My prayer is that you are doing that very thing with everything you read from SeqHim!

What are these extra-biblical resources?  I think of them as being any media that God uses to speak to his people, outside of the Bible itself.  Yes, I do believe that God speaks to us through our conscience, and He does not need media to speak to us.  I just don’t call that a “resource”.  So, examples would include books, classes, sermons, podcasts, videos, dramas, bogs, twitter feeds, seminars, conferences, etc.

Now, relatively speaking, there is a little good stuff out there, and alot of bad stuff.  The challenge for any disciple-maker is to discern the good from the bad.  And not only that, but discern the best from the good, where the distinction between the good and the best has to do with knowing where your disciple is in his walk and the kinds of resources that would be most beneficial for him/her right now. 

The vision of SeqHim includes tools and support for helping disciples and disciple-makers discrern the good from the bad and the best from the good.  Presently, this blog (and more effectively, R2 coming in a few weeks) can be used to share opinions on the best resources.  In the future, we’ll add structure, meta-languages and enhanced search capabilities to make a personalized community ranked list of resources one click away.

I’m sure there are other good sources of info on the best resources out there…I just have not seen any that live up to the standards I have in mind.  If you know of some good ones, please let me know. 

I would love to hear your feedback on the passages of Scripture and extra-biblical resources that have had the greatest impact on your walk!