We have identified three vital relationships that we believe each person should focus on if he or she desires to grow spiritually: a person’s relationship with God, with other believers, and with unbelievers. Said differently, we define spiritual maturity as the pursuit of intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.
Intimacy with God
The Bible records God’s deep love and His passionate pursuit of all humankind. And because He desires an intimate relationship with every one of us, we believe the mark of a maturing follower is that he or she is continually pursuing an intimate relationship with Him.
After all, intimacy in any relationship doesn’t just happen. It requires regular relational deposits. Imagine the state of a marriage where the husband and wife did not put any time or attention into their relationship. It might be characterized by a lot of things, but intimacy would not be one of them. Our relationship with God is no different. An intimate relationship with Him is not something we arrive at; it is something we continually pursue. And as we do, we enjoy the benefits and demonstrate the marks of a maturing follower.
Community with Insiders
Recognizing people’s need for meaningful connections and the reality that sustained life change takes place best in the context of intentional relationships, we want people to be growing in community with other believers. We believe that a person who is continuing to mature in his faith is meaningfully and regularly connecting with other believers. Since the human propensity is to drift, we need one another for mutual encouragement and accountability. [Consider]… the words of Hebrew 10:
“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but let us encourage one another.” (vs. 24-25)
Maturing believers are people who are growing in community with other believers, spending time together, encouraging one another, and supporting one another.
Influence with Outsiders
Because God has invited us to partner with Him in the process of evangelism, we want people to prioritize relationships with their unbelieving friends for the purpose of seeing these friends come to faith. We call it our Invest & Invite strategy: We encourage people to invest in the lives of their unbelieving friends and then invite them at the appropriate time to one of our relevant environments, where these guests will be encouraged in their spiritual journeys.
Many of our most spiritually vibrant attendees started out as disconnected, uninterested neighbors, coworkers, and friends. Then one day, a friend or neighbor invited them to visit one of our ministry environments and they experienced God in a fresh, relevant way. Nothing motivates believers (or small groups) more than when they see God using them to bring someone to Him. So we believe one of the marks of a maturing believer is the pursuit of those outside the faith.
To us, a spiritually maturing person is not someone who has completed a plan or curriculum. He is not someone who has simply acquired more truth. A maturing believer is someone who is continuing to grow in these three distinct relationships.
*Except for the first paragraph, this content was excerpted from
Creating Community by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits
© 2004 by North Point Ministries, Inc.
Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.
All rights reserved.