The key to spiritual growth

I am the oldest of three sons and I check just about every box on the “oldest child” list. Chief among them is that if I don’t think I can do something perfect right away I usually won’t even make the attempt. Do you know what’s odd about that? I love to learn. There’s something magical in learning something new. What I am coming to realize though is that when I say learn what I mean is gaining new information.

These two things are not equivalent.

In my experience, within my tribe of Christianity, spiritual growth is directly related to the receipt and comprehension of information. If you know this or understand that then you are becoming more spiritually mature. People who have been to bible college or seminary are afforded some sort of platform in the hierarchy of spiritual maturity simply because they have ingested more information.

The great thing about information is that it doesn’t take much time. We can read a book over a few days and have the information in our brains. One can got to a conference or seminar and learn all kinds of new information in a very short time. Many of us love podcasts and as a result are over-filled with information.

For too long now this equating spiritual maturity with information has undermined true spiritual growth and discipleship.

Over lunch the other day a friend and I were talking about the discipleship and spiritual practice. We discussed how much of “discipleship” is information transfer through “one one ones” or small groups. Yet, the transfer of information is not the point of the discipleship we see in the life of Jesus.

The goal of discipleship we see from Jesus is imitation. That is, to become, as much as it depends on us, like Jesus.

Jesus didn’t hold classes or seminars with his disciples. He lived life with them. They spent time together in one another’s homes and traveling the highways and by-ways of Palestine.

The disciples were able to witness Jesus living life and responding to all the mundane and routine things of life. They were also up close and personal with him in the big moments and the struggles. Being so close and spending so much time allowed them to fashion their lives after Jesus. When he finally left them they spent the rest of their lives trying to imitate him and inviting others to imitate them as they imitated Christ.

Inherent in this process is something that someone like me doesn’t like. What is it you ask? Time.

Time is one of the most important factors in the life of the person who wants to become like Christ. There is nothing that can replace it. It takes time for us to experience the fullness of life. Each moment, each hour, each day, each week, each month, each year, brings us into a deeper understanding of the way of Christ.

We can’t rush the clock or the calendar. What we must learn to do is to be present in the very moment we are in. Every single moment is an opportunity for us to be more like Christ. I think this is what Paul meant when he wrote that we should take each thought captive. When we learn to be present in each moment these moments string together to hours, days, weeks, months, and years. What we find is that over time we have become more like Christ.

It takes time to become.

There are no overnight sensations in the arts or sports. All of those who have been labeled as such put in years of work for that one moment of greatness.

For those of who want to be like Christ no amount of information gain will offset our need for time.

Time to learn to love. Time to learn to forgive. Time to learn kindness. Time to learn humility. Time to learn gentleness. Time to learn patience. Time to learn contentment. Time to learn how to speak truth. Time to learn to follow Christ.

The thing about time is that it’s the one thing we absolutely need and it’s something that we absolutely can’t control.

We can’t hurry spiritual maturity and growth. We won’t get it perfect right away. There will be mistakes and we will fail at being like Christ. Thankfully, there’s grace.

Originally published at on November 26, 2019.