Updated: Oct 29, 2020
Back in the early 2000s, Willow Creek put out a resource called Pursuing Spiritual Transformation. It's content reflected a lot of other things we've said about spiritual growth, but it starts with a simple list that, when I recently read it again, is very helpful.
Spiritual transformation . . .
is essential, not options, for Christ-followers.
is a process, not an event.
is God's work, but requires my participation.
involves those practices, experiences, and relationships that help me live intimately with Christ and walk as if He were in my place.
is not a compartmentalized pursuit. God is not interested in my spiritual life; He's interested in my life -- all of it.
can happen in every moment. It is not restricted to certain times or practices.
is not individualistic, but takes place in community and finds expression in serving others.
is not impeded by a person's background, temperament, life situation, or season of life. It is available right now to all who desire it.
and the means of pursuing it, will vary from one individual to another. Fully devoted followers are handcrafted, not mass-produced.
is ultimately gauged by an increased capacity to love God and people. Superficial or external checklists cannot measure it.
What I like most about the wording is that it doesn't need much explanation. We can certainly spend some time elaborating on it, but it's the sort of list you can glance at and be refreshed by.
But here's something interesting about the list: it seems to promote "practices" and also speak negatively about "practices". Why do you think that is? Basically, this reminds us that there is no magic spell for spiritual growth. You can't simply "do stuff" and expect spiritual growth to result. But at the same time, there are behaviors and practices that God has given us that draw us to Him.
So let me ask you this question: what are those practices that help us walk more closely with Christ?
The Willow Creek book focused on scripture meditation, solitude, prayer, and love. Other books I would strongly recommend to you on this subject are:
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, by Donald S. Whitney
The Spirit of the Disciplines : Understanding How God Changes Lives, by Dallas Willard
Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, by Richard Foster
Disciplines of a Godly Man by Kent Hughes or Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes
Spiritual growth is something that we have to commit to individually, and we have to help others with their individuality in mind. The more familiar we are with those practices God has explicitly given us to help us walk with Jesus, the more helpful we can be to the Christians God has placed in our lives.
But this list also reminds us that God is not limited to our understanding of "spiritual disciplines". He can speak to and through us in anything we are doing, as long as we are mindful of and attuned to His presence. Even the most mundane things we do can be a tool by which we grow closer to Jesus -- if we are intentional about that.
If you haven't read those books, I encourage you to order one and read it and try to put it into practice. We say "The leader is the lesson". Well, if you are growing spiritually, you will be a much better guide and inspiration to those around you!