As part of my job, I try to read articles and blogs by other youth workers and by current ministry publications. Youth Worker Journal often posts questions on their Facebook page asking questions from youth workers about issues they encounter. Today, the question was, "What challenges do you face in terms of spiritual growth?" As I sat there thinking about the question, I began to think about my own spiritual journey and the nature of growth in general.
There are many different kinds of growth-physical, intellectual, and emotional. There's the growth that occurs in a plant as it absorbs nutrients from the soil and converts sunlight into food. And so I asked myself, what is it that causes growth? Well, growth isn't really "caused" by anything...at least not any one factor. Growth occurs when a certain number of factors are all present at the same time and in the proper quantities. For a plant to grow, it needs nutritional soil, water, sunlight, and sometimes fertilizer, all in the proper amounts. For a growing child, a lack of food, water, shelter or clothing, could actually stunt the child's growth because certain basic needs are not being met.
In my own faith journey, the times of greatest spiritual growth came out of external circumstances that put me in a position where I needed him desperately. And out of those circumstances came periods of spiritual growth. So can we create spiritual growth? I think spiritual growth (like most other types of growth) is something that happens when the conditions are right. Just as a plant needs soil, water, and sunlight, so the Christian needs certain things for growth to occur. But we cannot make this growth happen. We need to create an environment for the growth to occur. In I Corinthians 3, the Apostle Paul addresses the issue of spiritual growth and acknowledges again that it is not something that we can create. Only God brings spiritual growth.
So what factors are important for spiritual growth? 1. Prayer 2. Bible Study 3. Involvement in a community of faith 4. Willingness to reach out to God when life gets rough 5. Circumstances that require dependence on God.
What would you add to this list? What things have spurred spiritual growth in your life? What problems inhibit your spiritual growth?