Are you a Spiritual Infant?

by Erin Bird

Missed one or both of the previous entries in this series? Quickly catch up here on the blog to gain context for the following post.

One day, many years ago, I was leading the first session of premarital counseling with a couple. Because this was our first time together, I was asking the series of questions I asked every couple to get to know them. This was to figure out what we might most need to discuss over the next 6-8 weeks to help them have the best marriage they possibly could.

When I came to the “spiritual” questions, I learned both had a clear “testimony” of putting their faith in Christ. But through the very next question, I learned the bride attended a weekly worship service almost every single Sunday, but the groom only made it once every 6-8 weeks. When I followed up on this, the guy said, “Well, I come for her, but church isn’t really for me. My church is being out in a 10×10 blind hunting ducks.”

As this groom answered my faith-related questions, I realized he was a spiritual infant. How did I recognize this? His responses to my questions confirmed the two words that identify someone as a spiritual infant.

Two Words: Ignorance & Dependence

The first word that identifies someone as a spiritual infant is the word ignorance. Just as an infant doesn’t know how to talk, walk, or feed themselves, a spiritual infant is “born again” (John 3:3) but doesn’t know much about the Bible, how the Gospel affects daily living, theology, or how to even “feed” themselves spiritually.

Because this groom was ignorant about much of the Christian faith, it was clear he was also living out the second word: dependence. This very intelligent and likable guy was depending upon his future bride to lead them in prayer or to explain certain things about faith. And when he did come on Sundays, he depended on the pastor to put the Scripture on the screen for he didn’t know how to find it in the Bible himself.

Now, I realize, these two words (ignorance and dependence) seem offensive. As Americans, we don’t like to be dependent upon anyone else, nor do we want to be seen as ignorant. So out of embarrassment, many spiritual infants avoid other Christians or do what they can to keep their spiritual maturity a secret.

Unfortunately, many spiritual infants are “encouraged” to stay undercover because some churches give off anti-spiritual-infant vibes. Spiritual infants don’t speak Christianese, they don’t know “doctrine” (like the groom in my story), and they sometimes aren’t as reliable as someone more “mature,” so unfortunately some churches just don’t want to interact with or invest in them.

This saddens me because I LOVE spiritual infants! I find joy in watching spiritual infants grow to become spiritual children. This helps you understand why I put a “cheat sheet” on the screen every Sunday to find books of the Bible as we open to the Scripture passage. It is why I encourage people every week to bring a Bible to our Gatherings. It is why there isn’t an entrance exam to join a Growth Group. We love spiritual infants at Riverwood and want to do whatever we can to help them grow to the next stage.

Self-Assessment Time

In order for you to grow to your next stage, you have to be honest with yourself and your current stage. So let me ask you: are you a spiritual infant? And please hear me: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING A SPIRITUAL INFANT! We all begin spiritual life in Jesus as spiritual infants. My desire for you is to simply grow spiritually and not be stuck in spiritual infancy.

So be honest with yourself. Read through the following statements, for they are common thoughts many spiritual infants have. If you recognize some of these thoughts in yourself, then pay particular close attention to the recommendations which follow.

A Few Common Spiritual Infant Thoughts

  • If I pray and read my Bible, will I be good enough for God?
  • I don’t really have time for church or a Bible study.
  • I love Jesus, but my church is being out in nature.
  • I’m a good person, definitely better than some others I know.
  • Good people get good things because Karma is real.
  • Does God let dead people come back and give us messages?
  • When someone dies, they become an angel.
  • I think we’ll be surprised when we get to heaven, because Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even Muslims and Buddhists will be there.
  • I don’t really know much about the Bible or theology. I’m just not smart like that.

If any of that feels familiar in your own thinking, then perhaps you are currently a spiritual infant. So what should you do?

Next Steps for Spiritual Infants

Step 1: Find a “parent.”

Just like an infant needs a parent to care for it, a spiritual infant needs more mature believers to care for them. This is why God created the church!

So get into a Growth Group or ask someone who is further along in their faith to meet with you one-on-one. And then, as you meet with this spiritual young adult or parent, seek to begin imitating them. Watch how they interact with others. Learn how they are growing in their faith. After all, the Apostle Paul told some of his readers to imitate him to help them grow out of spiritual infancy. (1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17, 1 Thessalonians 1:6)

Step 2: Engage in Spiritual Disciplines.

Another key to move from spiritual infancy to spiritual childhood is to become a self-feeder. Begin to daily get into the Scriptures to learn more the heart of God. You can do this by using a Bible Reading plan (the YouVersion app has some built in plans, or download one from the Riverwood website) or listen to the Scriptures while driving in the car. Also, spend time talking with God in prayer. Use something like the Echo app or the One Minute Pause app (or even just a watch alarm!) to help you take time to pray.

Closing Encouragement

Let me say it again: if you recognize some spiritual infant thoughts within yourself, do not be embarrassed by that! As I said last week, God loves you exactly where you are, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way. So I encourage you to let this longer-than-normal post be part of what He uses to help you begin the journey of going deeper, finding joy in the depths of growing into Christlikeness by maturing through the spiritual development stages.

Spiritual Stage Disclaimers

Spiritual Stage Disclaimers

By Erin Bird

Last week I kicked off a new series on Spiritual Stages. As a quick reminder, here are the four spiritual stages (as connected with the four depths of the river found in Riverwood’s key biblical passage of Ezekiel 47) we will look at during the course of this series:

Ankle Deep – Spiritual Infant
Waist Deep – Spiritual Child
Knee Deep – Spiritual Young Adult
Submerged – Spiritual Parent

As I said last week, part of the purpose of this series is to help you identify where you are spiritually. But as I got ready to write this week’s blog, I realized that before we jump into explanations of each of the four spiritual stages, I need to give a few disclaimers. So let me put a “pause” on the series to give you some clarifications that might help you with our future discussions:

#1: Spiritual maturity is not tied to physical maturity.
While we will be using the language of human growth (infant, child, etc.) in this series, a person’s spiritual stage doesn’t advance simply because they have gotten older. A grandpa could come to faith in Christ and become a spiritual infant while his high-school-aged grandson could be a spiritual parent leading his classmates (and his grandpa!) to Christ.

#2: Being “deeper” doesn’t make you better.
Too often, we Americans want to appear better than we truly are. We drive cars that are beyond our income. We publish the nice photos on social media and delete the embarrassing ones. We brag about our accomplishments but stay quiet about our struggles. By putting forward our “best,” we want people to think we are better than we actually are.

But it won’t be helpful to say you are a spiritual young adult when in truth you are still a spiritual infant. It is FAR better for you to be honest about which spiritual stage you are truly in and not the stage you want people to think you are in. And you shouldn’t be embarrassed by whichever stage you are in. Rather, you should happily figure out your current stage so you can take the steps needed to growt to the next stage.

#3: Jesus doesn’t love you based on which spiritual stage you are in.
We tend to admire people based on how much money they make, how many academic degrees they hold, how well dressed they are, or how many YouTube subscribers or Twitter followers they have. But Jesus, as a perfect human, isn’t impressed by these things. God makes it clear in 1 Samuel 16:7 that while man looks at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.

So if you discover next week that you are still a spiritual infant when you might have thought you were a spiritual child or young adult, know that Jesus doesn’t love you less for being in that stage. Rather know that He loves you and simply longs for you to grow spiritually. As the Christian cliché says, “God loves you just as you are, but He loves you too much to keep you that way.”

#4: Spiritual Growth doesn’t move at the same pace as physical growth.
While you most likely know someone who has gone through a growth spurt physically, physical growth is typically a slow, steady occurrence. However, spiritual growth can occur much faster or slower. The speed of spiritual growth is dependent upon the work of God’s Spirit as well as a person’s willingness to engage in spiritual disciplines that will help them move through the four stages. And so just because you might be a spiritual child right now doesn’t mean you can’t become a spiritual parent within a couple years. (But keep in mind, you won’t become a spiritual parent overnight – God isn’t into microwaving your spiritual growth. But His slow cooking closer to the image of Jesus doesn’t have to take decades.)

#5: The Spiritual Stages is a spectrum, not clear steps.
Just as there isn’t a definitive day that an infant becomes a child, there isn’t a clear “on this day in history I advanced to the next stage.” While there is a definitive change when someone moves from spiritual death to spiritual life, spiritual growth isn’t like a video game where you advance to the next level. It is more like a gradient than blends into the next stage.

So as we jump in next week with what a spiritual infant looks like, keep these little “disclaimers” in mind as you try to figure out which stage you might be in and to what things God is calling you so you can continue to mature into the image of Christ.

Spiritual Stages of Growth

Spiritual Stages of Growth

By Erin Bird

New Series – Spiritual Stages
If you are a parent, you know the joy children can bring. As I type this, I am watching my youngest son play baseball with the W-SR Freshman team. While I enjoy the sport of baseball, my greater joy comes from watching my son do something he loves. The same can be said when I watch my 17-year-old lead his robotics team, or see artwork created by my 20-year-old, or eat a veggie grown by my garden-loving 24-year-old.

But what if my youngest son loved baseball, but didn’t grow? Rather than inhabit the body of a typical 14-year-old, imagine he was still the size of a 6-month-old or a two-year-old. He may love the sport, but he wouldn’t be able to participate. Rather than spend our time at the ball field, we would be spending time in the doctor’s office trying to figure out what is wrong with him. Everyone knows kids are supposed to grow.

I think the same could be said about our spiritual lives. As you read the Scripture, there is an underlying assumption that people who put their faith in Jesus will continue to grow, naturally advancing from one spiritual stage to another, until we are “mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:28)

In this week’s blog, I want to start a new series on these Spiritual Stages. Rather than simply share ideas of ways you can grow spiritually, I want to help you take time to figure out where you are in your spiritual journey with Jesus, and then decide what your next step might need to be to go deeper with Christ.

Through this series, we are going to look at four “stages” of growth. These four stages match the four river depths we find in Ezekiel 47 (Riverwood’s key passage behind our name and mission). Here’s what these four stages look like:

Ankle deep – Spiritual Infant
Knee deep – Spiritual Kid
Waist deep – Spiritual Young Adult
Submerged – Spiritual Parent

As we look at each stage (one per week), we will look at “markers” that will help you self-identify which stage you might be in, and then look at some steps you can take to help you move deeper and go to the next stage.

I echo the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1:2: I want to see you be “mature in Christ.” So join me next week and the three weeks after as we consider how to help one another go deeper with Jesus and grow through the spiritual stages.

Jesus in the Future

Jesus in the Future

By Erin Bird

Back to the Future

Let’s get back to our series called The Same. To jog your memory, we are looking at Hebrews 13:8 which teaches us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Since we’ve already looked at “yesterday” and “today“, let’s wrap things up this week by looking at “Jesus in the Future.”

When I think of the “future,” I tend to think of a time far away. Maybe I’ve watched way too many sci-fi films, but I think of “futuristic” things like flying cars, or what the world will be like for my great grandchildren. In other words, I think about days I will never see.

But in the Scripture, the “future” isn’t always seen as “some distant day you will never experience.” The future is often viewed as being much closer.

Take 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18. This is a fairly famous set of verses about the second coming of Jesus. Many people tend to think about the return of Christ as coming in years, decades, or even centuries from now. Yet Paul doesn’t talk about Christ’s return as if it will happen in two-thousand years. Rather, he talks as if it could happen at any point in the future – even his future.

Seeing Paul’s viewpoint helps me see that the future isn’t about far-off days. The future includes tomorrow– a day I will most likely see. And what is so encouraging to me about this is that Jesus will be the same reliable Messiah tomorrow as He is to me today!

I think this is why Jesus tells us to not worry about tomorrow (Matthew 6:34). If I can trust Him with today, I can trust Him with your tomorrow, as well as trust Him with my eternity.

So if you are a Jesus-follower, you can face whatever comes tomorrow, because Christ will be with you. You can trust Him with your next month, because He will still be the same. And you can trust Him with the very end of your life, because He will keep you for eternity.

Like Riverwood on Facebook