Stalled Spiritual Growth: Part 1

2 chairs at lake purchased shutterstock_84094621 MEDIUM NARROWER

You may be among the increasingly large number of Christians today who feel that they are not growing significantly in their walk with God. Many describe their spiritual growth as stagnant or stalled.  They long to grow and may even be active in their church, but they do not know what to do about it.  In this three part post, I will be looking at:

  1. The problem underlying lack of spiritual growth
  2. The ultimate goal of our spiritual lives
  3. Suggestions for catalyzing growth

Underlying Problem

Prayer Misunderstood

Many factors contribute to the problem of stalled spiritual growth in the Church today. Some are cultural in nature while others are unique to the Church in general. At their core, however, many of them have in common a lack of understanding of what prayer can be and a lack of experience in life-transforming encounter with God in prayer. There is a great need for the prayers of Christians today to be informed by Scripture, to be a means of listening to God and to lead to life transformation.

Activity vs. Growth

One very significant problem arising out of today’s “program-based” churches is the growing assumption that activity equals spiritual growth. This is not always the case. The authors of the Reveal study wrote, “we wanted to find evidence of spiritual growth in our people, and then figure out what types of activities or circumstances triggered that spiritual growth” [emphasis added].[1] Research was done among 14,000 current attendees of Willow Creek Community Church and 500 former members. Results revealed that there is no correlation between increased activity and spiritual maturity. Even so, outward activity that is visible tends to take priority over inward spiritual growth which seems invisible.

This emphasis on activity is a reflection of our western culture that measures a person’s worth by what they do and how much they produce. It is easy for this value to be carried over into the Church and for members to equate involvement and activity with spiritual growth and maturity. Even the fact that the Willow Creek research was looking for the “activity” that triggered spiritual growth is evidence of how this cultural value has been absorbed by the Church. A result of this emphasis on involvement is churches that are full of people outwardly participating in various programs but inwardly feeling a lack of personal spiritual growth.

Taking it Deeper

How do you feel about your spiritual growth lately?

How do you tend to evaluate or measure your own growth?

[1] Greg L. Hawkins, Cally Parkinson, and Eric Arnson, Reveal: Where Are You? (Barrington, IL: The Willow Creek Association, 2007), 29.

Copyright © 2013 Katherine Mills Johnson. All rights reserved.

About Kathy Johnson

Katherine Johnson, D.Min. was born and raised in Oklahoma. She is a wife, mother, ecstatic grandmother of 3, author, teacher, and scuba-diver. Dr. Johnson was received into the Catholic Church in 2013 after 30 years as a Protestant missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Her doctoral research focused on lectio divina as a catalyst for spiritual growth and her latest publications include 8 volumes in the Lectio Divina Catholic Prayer Journal Series. They can be purchased at: She and her husband live in Dallas, Texas.

Posted on February 1, 2013, in Discipleship, Prayer, Spiritual Formation and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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