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PSY 4480 Assignment Spiritual Maturity

PSY 4480 Assignment Spiritual Maturity

 

When thinking about the Christian life, the Bible speaks of spiritual maturity in a similar way. For example, Paul describes the church in Corinth as “infants in Christ,” who could not be given “solid food” because “[they were] not able to receive it.”[ii] In his book Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, James Fowler notes that “we all begin the pilgrimage of faith as infants.”[iii] However, we are not intended to remain “infants in Christ” or even children for that matter. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.”[iv] Clearly, Paul’s desire is for the Church to have a grown up or mature faith.

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When speaking of spiritual maturity, Paul often uses the word teleios (which can be translated as “mature,” “perfect,” or “complete”). In Ephesians 4:13, Paul longs for, “all [to] attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature person, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” However, in the letter to the Ephesians, spiritual maturity is not just an individual goal but the goal for the entire body of Christ. Stephen Rankin, in his book Aiming at Maturity: The Goal of the Christian Life, defines “a spiritually mature Christian [as] one whose whole character—dispositions, words, and actions—emulates the character of Jesus Christ himself.”[v] In Ephesians 5:1-2, Paul calls on the church in Ephesus to “be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved [us] and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Spiritual maturity is a goal that all Christians should be striving after as they seek to imitate God and live out Christ’s love.

A NEED FOR SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

Since June of 2016, I have served as pastor of the Mooreville United Methodist Charge, a group of three small, rural churches in Lee County, Mississippi. The churches are made up of mostly older adults, though there are a few young families in two of the churches. The ethnic make-up is Caucasian which closely mirrors the community of Mooreville. The churches share a pastor as well as some ministries, including the children and youth program and the United Methodist Women group.

The churches have all been in decline for several years, although the community around them has grown during that time. One of the possible reasons for this decline is an apparent lack of focus on discipleship ministries and spiritual growth. Overall, participation in discipleship opportunities like Bible study, Sunday school, and other small, accountability groups is limited to a few people. The problem is not that there is a no discipleship taking place but that many members of the charge seem content and satisfied where they are spiritually.

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