by Erin Bird
Missed any of the previous four entries in this series? Quickly catch up here.
The world's best stories have great protagonists. Whether the Harry Potter series, the original Star Wars trilogy, or (one of my favorites) Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, our most beloved stories have main characters with whom the reader can relate. Who of us doesn't feel some sort of affinity with Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, or Frodo in Tolkein's epic Lord of the Rings, or even the brokenness of the super-wealthy Tony Stark in Iron Man 3?
But while there is a wide range of protagonists in these stories, there are a few similarities among them. The first similarity is that each of these characters "grow" through their adventure, trial, struggle, etc. The person they are at the end of the story is not who they were at the beginning.
And that growth leads to the second similarity I see. In almost every story, the main character moves from self-preservation to selflessness.
Last week, as we looked at the Spiritual Child stage, we saw the keyword for that stage was self-centeredness. A spiritual child approaches their spiritual growth with a view of "me": what I like, what I want, and what I think is best.
But just like the protagonists of the world's most famous stories, a growing Jesus-follower moves from self-centeredness to others-centeredness. Over time, as the Holy Spirit works in their life, they begin to shift from viewing life through the lens of "me" to using a lens of Christlike humility. They begin to live out the Apostle Paul's words from Philippians 2:3-4 to consider the needs of others before their own.
This leads many Spiritual Young Adults to help start new ministries, lead small groups, pray aloud with a fellow church member, share what they are learning in their personal time in the Scripture, recommend a podcast to a friend, or sign-up to fill a volunteer need, because they are realizing life and ministry and church isn't about them.
As I have been saying throughout this series, in order for you to grow to your next stage, you have to honestly assess your current stage. Spiritual young adulthood is a fantastic stage - but I think many people believe they are in this stage before they are truly there. I don't say that to be a pessimist; I WANT people to become spiritual young adults! But many people think they are spiritual young adults simply because they've been going to church for most of their lives, can share all sorts of Bible stories, and listen to Christian radio religiously.
So be honest with yourself. Read through the following statements, for they represent the types of thoughts many spiritual young adults have. If you recognize some of these thoughts in yourself, then pay attention to the recommendations which follow.
If any of that feels familiar in your own thinking, then perhaps you are currently a spiritual young adult. So what should you do?
Jesus says in Matthew 9:37-38 that the harvest is great, but the laborers are few. When He used the word "harvest," He wasn't referring to physical crops. He was talking about people who don't know the gospel. But there are very few people who will give their life to help the "harvest" find Jesus and follow Him.
Because a Spiritual Young Adult has begun to make the shift from self-centeredness to others-focused, they are the perfect people to help with the harvest. This is why it is crucial for a spiritual young adult to know how God has created them. So ask yourself:
The answers to these questions will help you know what your spiritual gifts are and how you can begin using them to help others find and follow Jesus. (If you don't quite know the answers, perhaps something like a spiritual gift inventory will help you discover your spiritual gift design.)
Another crucial step is to just get involved! Some people wait until the "perfect" ministry opportunity comes along. But often they are looking for "perfect" because they are unknowingly making their ministry volunteerism all about "me." Thus, they reveal they aren't actually a Spiritual Young Adult. A Spiritual Young Adult has their focus on others, so when they see a need, they jump in to help others, even if it isn't "perfect."
In the book of Acts, we get a small glimpse of the relationship between the Apostle Paul and a young man named Timothy. Eventually, Timothy becomes the pastor in whom Paul entrusts the church in Ephesus. Timothy is able to take on this major responsibility because of Paul's investment in his life.
While a spiritual young adult is becoming more and more others-focused, they aren't fully there yet. Sometimes they need a "Paul" in their life, a mentor who can speak from experience as well as identify the blind spots the spiritual young adult is missing so that they might mature into the next stage (Spiritual Parent).
Lastly, to move into the final stage of spiritual parenthood, a spiritual young adult needs to find a "Timothy" in whom they can invest. In a mentor/mentoree (or discipler/disciplee) relationship, it isn't just the "younger" person who gains, but the mentor/discipler also grows in the process. As we will see next week, Spiritual Parents give "birth" to new disciples. So go ahead and find a Jesus-follower in the Spiritual Infant or Spiritual Child stage to disciple, or even find a pre-Christian with whom you can share the gospel with through your friendship.
The mission God has given us is ultra-important. As I have already been stated, the harvest is great, but the laborers are few. If you are a Spiritual Young Adult, I'd love for you to give your FIST (Finances, Influence, Skills, & Time) to help us accomplish the mission of inviting the spiritually disconnected to find and follow Jesus. And if you aren't a Spiritual Young Adult yet, go back and read the previous installments on Spiritual Infancy and Spiritual Childhood so you can begin taking the steps needed to become a Spiritual Young Adult who can help lead us to seeing God's vision for Riverwood become a reality.
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We are on a mission to help people love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived.
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No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, we want to help you become who God has created you to be.