Spiritual Maturity In The USA

That you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10, NASB1995).

Following Jesus should keep us on a path of deepening spirituality. There are ups and downs in our walk, but we should be maturing in Christ.

I asked a friend for a definition of “spiritual maturity”…

Maturing in Christ means that a Christ-follower is developing into someone who can do the works for which they’ve been set apart (Ephesians 2:10). It means that they are being equipped for ministering to others within the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 3:14-16) and living and speaking the good news of God’s Kingdom outside that Body (Matthew 28:18-20).

It’s a great definition that should describe all of us who claim Jesus as Lord.

Recently, a Pew Research article hit the headlines of Christian blogs and news sources saying that by 2070, Christianity would be a minority religion in the U.S.A.

My thought was, “How can this happen if believers are maturing in Christ?” Then I thought, “Are Christians really maturing in Christ?”

Let’s imagine a revival in your church next Sunday. Your pastor preaches a sermon that on Heaven’s scorecard of Christendom’s great sermons, comes in second just below the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus.

One hundred people accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. What happens to those 100?

  • 80 percent walk away from faithfulness within three months
  • Of the 20 percent left, five years later only 20 percent of them are growing or maturing in Christ.

Another friend of mine (I hang out with smart people) said, “According to my math, 20 percent of 100 is 20 and 20 percent of 20 is 4.”

That means that the 100-person revival at your church in the Fall of 2022 yields only 4 (the exact number is 4.3) people after five years.

HHHHMMMHHM!

The other 96 people are disgruntled, disillusioned, or outright denying their previous faith. If these statistics are accurate, no wonder the church in the U.S.A. is fast becoming a minority religion.

What should we do? We might say, “Pray for revival!” 

But Jesus doesn’t tell us to pray for revival. He gives us another prayer (Luke 10:2) and also a command for our obedience in discipleship (Matthew 28)…

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

We are to pray for workers! The harvest is plentiful but there are few disciplers. If a revival came, 80 percent would walk away.  

The reason for the “walk-away” rate of new believers and the “walk-away” rate of believers, as Christianity trends toward a minority religion, is a lack of spiritual maturity and vitality.

The Bible’s solution is workers who are disciplers. Yet few believers have been discipled, know how to disciple, or have ever discipled someone.

The failure of Christianity in the U.S.A. is a failure of discipleship. 

The command of Jesus is to…

Go and make disciples!

Learning To Swim And Follow Jesus

Eighty percent of those who decide to follow Jesus walk away from the faith, mostly within three months after their decision.

 Years back, I wrote a book on discipleship entitled Swimming Lessons.

My point of the book is that it’s best if someone teaches you to swim.

I taught children to swim at inner-city elementary schools when I was a teenager. I figured out a way to teach a kid how to swim in about 15 minutes of pool-time instruction.

Obviously, they weren’t going to win the Olympics, but that wasn’t my purpose. I wanted a young kid who fell into water and sank to be able to get to the surface, float, and get to the side of pool.

Fifteen minutes was all it took with most kids, if they would just trust what I said.

In those days of swimming instruction, I encountered an interesting comment more than once. Someone would ask what I did over the summer and I would tell them that I taught kids to swim.  

Then they would say…

No one taught me to swim when I was little, my dad just took me to the deep end and threw me in.

HHHHMMMHHM… my thought, “Well, that’s one approach, but I wonder how many drowned?”

I hear something similar when discussing abiding in or maturity in Christ. 

One-on-one discipleship is the best method of laying a foundation for the faith of a new believer. Foundational discipleship isn’t rocket science – it’s the four foundational disciplines (prayer, Bible, fellowship, and evangelism/discipleship), how to overcome temptations, learning to find joy during trials, and walking in the promises of God – all of which can taught by a discipler with a new follower in three months.

Same with teaching a person to swim. Teach them the basics, show them by example, and give encouraging testimony – building their confidence that they won’t sink when they let go of the side of the pool.

Swimming is best taught one-on-one.

As I’ve talked to many Christians about foundational discipleship, I’ve heard a similar comments to the one I heard while teaching swimming…

“I’ve never been discipled,” “I don’t see the importance,” and “I did just fine.”

HHHHMMMHHM… my thought, “But what about the 80 percent who drowned?”

Sometimes, I hear additional comments like…

“I go to church once a week,” “We have a great worship team,” and, “I enjoy the sermons.”

“We don’t need one-on-one discipleship because we have small groups.”

I enjoy churches with preaching, worship, and small groups. But it takes a new follower of Jesus a year to integrate into the larger body of believers and it takes five to six months to join a small group (in the best circumstances). But new believers walk away within three months. 

HHHHMMMHHM! It’s best if churches have one-on-one discipleship.

Discipleship Through QR Codes

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, NIV).

Mimic my behavior as I mimic the behavior of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1, OGV).

Let’s imagine that you are confronted with a complex task. How you complete this task will bring blessings or frustrations into your life.

Let’s consider that all of you are already doing this task, some very well and some of you dismally. But you can improve by following an example.

What is this task? Walking on the narrow path!

For the gate is small and the path is narrow that leads to life (Matthew 7:14, OGV).

On this path, wander to the left or the right and you could be entangled in thorns or fall off a cliff. To stay safe, you need a guide or an example! The Greek word for “example” can also be translated as “mimic.”  

On a narrow path, with danger inches off the path, I want more than a guide shouting instructions or an expert saying, “Watch me.” I want to hear the words, “This is a dangerous part of the path, mimic my exact footsteps.”

When decisions impact my life, I want specifics, not suggestions. I want an exact translation with no room for error in the translation. Life’s decisions, the most important ones, are instant, exacting, and need action. 

Opinions and discussions may not be helpful and may probably be dangerous.

God provides very specific guidance in scripture, and the Spirit comes with in-the-second instructions. Galatians 5:25 says, “We live by the Spirit, by walking right behind the Spirit” (OGV).

Yesterday, I led a conference on First Steps Conversations (discipleship for new and renewed believers). At the beginning, a QR code was distributed, and attendees could scan the code to receive teaching notes on their mobile devices.

I taught for an hour and several people asked after the first session, “I can’t get the QR code to work.”  

I said, “Go to the tech guy and he will work it out for you.” I then listened to the tech guy’s very specific instructions, “Scan with your camera, hover, you don’t need to take a photo.” And, “See that little box? Tap it.” And, “No, it won’t work on a flip phone from 1998.”

Answers about the “narrow path” of a QR code were quickly solved by following specific advice. God tells us throughout the Bible that He wants to give advice, showing you the exact steps to take in decisions.

This is discipleship – a discipler, having learned to be led by the Spirit, teaching the fundamentals, and leading a disciple in hearing more specific instructions.

The disciple grows by mimicking.

Why spend hours staring at the screen of a mobile device, trying to figure out a QR code, when someone could instruct you in seconds? Why walk the narrow path alone? Save yourself cuts, scrapes, and broken bones – by just mimicking your guide.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (Romans 8:14, NIV).

Below is the QR code for the recent conference.  

Using it, you can download an outline for foundational discipleship instruction. If you want to come to a conference to hear me speak about the outline, hit “reply” and let us know and you will be sent another “QR” code for registration.

If using Android, make sure you have a QR program downloaded. No need with an iPhone. Turn on camera and hover. Tap the box that comes up. If you still can’t get it to work – pray and fast.