The Spiritual Growth Secret No One Talks About


Daniel K. Eng     |     APR 17, 2018     |     5 MIN READ


It used to be so great.

You remember really growing in Christ. Discovering the Word and having it transform you. Every week you learned something new, and it was changing your life. It was thrilling.

But then, something changed.

The Bible studies weren’t exciting. You weren’t challenged by your pastor’s sermons anymore. It just wasn’t the same.

You weren’t doing anything differently. You faithfully showed up to church and Bible study with your trusty NIV Study Bible. You’d get up early, like you always did, to pray and read Scripture. But it just became routine. Boring.

And you’ve started to wonder: What’s wrong?

Maybe it’s my church. My church is letting me down.  If I’m not being fed, then I have to find a new one.

But before you leave your church, there’s something you should know. It’s not incredibly profound, but a lot of churchgoers miss this.

At different stages of your spiritual maturity, different things help you grow

Think about it this way. A growing person doesn’t have the same diet at every stage of physical development. You don’t feed an infant the same thing you feed a teenager. In the same way, the things that will help you grow at later stages in maturity are often different than what helped you grow in an earlier stage.

Paul understood this concept, and he applied it to his ministry to the divided Corinthian church:

1 But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)

See, Paul understood that the divisions and strife in the church of Corinth revealed their members’  level of spiritual maturity, and he changed their diet accordingly.

So, if the “milk” of your Bible study or your pastor’s sermons are not helping you grow as much as it did before, it’s likely not your church’s fault. Maybe it’s time for you to change your expectations.

It’s time for you to take responsibility for your own growth

A developing human learns to self-feed, exercise, and care for his or her own body. In the same way, a maturing believer becomes less and less church-program-dependent while becoming more and more self-dependent. As a result, the church moves from the role of spiritual parent to spiritual facilitator.

Let’s go back to Paul. This is what he writes to the believers in Philippi:

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Do you see the terms Paul uses to describe his role in maturity? He uses this language of running a race to show that even he is striving for growth in his life. His maturity is his own responsibility, not another. He goes on:

15 Let those of us who are mature think this way... (Philippians 3:15a)

Paul makes it clear that a growing person takes responsibility for his own growth. In 2007 megachurch pastor Bill Hybels made headlines as his church discussed this concept:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.' We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

So, what will help you to grow? What will challenge you at this point? You should note that it is likely something that will be different from what helped you before, and it may differ from person to person.

  • Are there spiritual disciplines that you’ve been thinking about practicing?  Perhaps being more generous? Perhaps fasting?

  • What about teaching a Bible study group or mentoring someone?

  • What about a ministry that’s been on your radar but you think would make you uncomfortable? A short-term mission? Reaching the local community?

Maybe it’s something you haven’t considered. No matter what, it’s your responsibility to seek these out and implement them. It’s time to grow up and be spiritually mature.

This article was based on a seminar that Pastor Daniel gives for groups called "Spiritual Growth 201".

Daniel is a husband, dad, pastor, teacher, board-gamer, and PhD candidate.