Leading people is always a tough job. One of the hardest things to do as you lead people is to assess where people are at spiritually. This is hard because spiritual growth is usually unseen. One of the ways I have assessed spiritual maturity and growth in the past is by seeing how much people are serving in church. If they are serving a lot I would think they are mature and growing in their faith if they aren’t serving much or at all that must mean that they are immature and not growing.
But as Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson show in their book Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth. Judging spiritual maturity or growth on the hours one puts in at church can be misleading. Here is what they say about being active in church and the spiritual disciplines:
Never let the passion to serve eclipse a commitment to personal spiritual disciplines. Since those Growing in Christ are very active volunteers, it’s easy for leaders to affirm this segment’s high levels of serving as a clear measure of their spiritual growth. But leaders must not lose sight of the need to affirm and challenge these individuals in their commitment to personal spiritual disciplines such as prayer and reflecting on Scripture. Spiritual growth is about more than being involved in church activities; among other things, it also requires spending time with God.
Here is what they say about high levels of service and qualifications for leadership:
Don’t confuse high levels of service with qualifications for Christian leadership. The fact that some people serve a ton in your church does not by itself mean that these individuals are ready for leadership roles—especially ones that require spiritual leadership over a group of people. Their high degree of involvement does not necessarily mean they are mature followers of Christ. We wish this were not the case. It would be much easier and a lot more convenient to just ask people about their previous serving experience and then place those with the most impressive resumés into leadership. That is how it works in most organizations, and some people in a congregation assume that is how it should also work in the church. They tell us all about what they are involved in and how successful that involvement has been as justification for a leadership position in the church. But we can’t let that influence us. Instead, it’s vitally important to shift the focus from activities and accomplishments to the condition of the heart. We need to listen between the lines to make sure they are in love with Christ and not just the church. Have they organized their lives so they can spend time with Christ, the one they love, when no one else is watching? It’s tempting to settle for a record of service as qualification for leadership—especially when you’re trying to find ten or twenty new small group leaders—but resist the temptation.
What the authors are not saying is that church involvement isn’t an indicator of spiritual growth and or maturity they are saying it is not the only one.
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