Written by Paul J. Bucknell on October, 29, 2018
Introduction to the Flow Diagram
Three Spiritual Stages of Growth
We must recognize that the three spiritual stages of growth are closely related to the other stages. Just as a person cannot be born a young adult, neither can he spiritually bypass certain spiritual stages. That being said, physical growth largely depends on the maturing process of time. We are all aware (some painfully!) how we grow older with time. Spiritual growth, however, develops as God’s truth is implanted into our hearts and minds so that it shapes what we think and do.
If everyone in the church was dressed in their spiritual clothes, our churches would look utterly ridiculous. We would see 10 year-old Christians dressed as infants. On the other hand, we might be very surprised to see some very young Christians wearing a suit. Time is not the key factor for maturing but the entrance of light. We cannot discount the factor of time in the process of acquiring truth, however. This is the reason the Apostle Paul says that we are not to anoint into eldership those who have been Christians for a short time.
The Flow Diagram
In the adjacent ‘The Flow’ chart, we notice two significant differences between this and the prior diagram.
(1) The Flow diagram has an arrow. This helps us to see how God’s grace like a current pushes us ‘downstream’, so to speak. God is working behind the growing process. He wants us to grow. He carefully helps us to grow. We can see this in the way God has equipped the world with parents and the church with teachers and pastors. God has designed the means for the truth of God to enter our lives. The faster this process is, the quicker we grow. This is just the beginning of the magnificent orchestration of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Unfortunately, we do not have the time to elaborate on this. God is constantly causing us to grow.
(2) The diagrams differ in that the different stages have lines drawn between them. These are lines of connectivity. If one looks carefully, the lines are going in both directions.
The right arrows are more obvious. They show the order in which we grow. As said before, a Christian who has new life must go through each stage of life in order. Each stage requires certain entrance of truths into a person’s heart and mind so that the person is shaped or established by it. Special things need to happen in the New Believer’s stage before they can rightly belong to the Young Christian’s stage. Likewise, those in the Young Christian’s stage must go through certain training before they can belong to the third ‘father’ stage. This training might informally or formally occur, but most Christians no longer live in such contexts like strong Christian families where there is much informal training.
Needless to say, if those things which are most needed are neglected, the Christian ends up with rather predictable problems. Just like a baby needs certain nutrients to grow properly, the new Christian also does. This is what John talks about in 1 John 2:12-14 which we have discussed elsewhere.
The natural question is “What stage are you at?” In almost every form that one fills out, one’s age is asked for. A person’s age speaks volumes on his or her interests and needs. As we discern where we are at in the spiritual growth process, we are able to better see what our present needs are. In fact, just defining what characterizes each of the three stages initiate special insights into our lives. After introducing “The Flow” diagram a bit more, we will give a brief introduction of each of the three stages of spiritual life.
The diagram is a smaller and partially adapted FLOW diagram. We have deliberately shaded out the means that people enter this flow of life in Christ (the Seeker stage–the left side) and the branch off stage at the end (the Servant Leader–the right side). They are important. We need new people into the Christian family. We also need to understand how this spiritual life relates to those in full-time ministry. These are discussed elsewhere.
This diagram is powerful because it helps us understand this dynamic of spiritual growth on both a conceptual level and a practical level in how we can use it in our local churches and individual lives. Each of the three stages has its own distinctives features but is interconnected to each other. This insight into how they interrelate to each stage quickly clarifies what has confused Christians for many years. For example, we see how important discipleship is to each part of the Christian’s life. We learn what each Christian should focus on in their lives. And perhaps most importantly, it helps us realize that Christians always need to be growing. This diagram has motivated me to grow and help others grow.
The Holy Spirit helps each of us through the various stages of the Christian life. One area is not more important than another. Each, however, has its own context where different foundational truths are being put into our lives so that we can more effectively worship and serve.