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What is spiritual growth? I may be the only one asking this but i find myself trying to figure out what a “mature” follower of Jesus looks like. The search for this answer leads us to create all kinds of tools, programs, systems, and rules to prove growth is happening. The problem is that in my life it has been an amazingly messy journey and I have not and do not think I will ever stop growing and maturing. I could live 1,000 years and just begin to embrace the kind of life Jesus modeled for us. It is so consuming. John Burke, in his book No Perfect People Allowed, connected so many dots for me about what this growth process looks like in our Western culture. The book has been out for a while but I feel a kind of kinship with the direction of the church he leads and Grace Community. One of the pages I marked on the read through really helped me grab onto what growth looks like for all of us who refuse to run from the “world” Jesus gave His life for. Here was the passage of scripture…Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)

11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.
12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Love that passage! I do not pretend to have all the answers about spiritual growth but the passage and John’s book remind me that growth in never isolated. It happened in community together with other believers. Why? Maybe so that we are always reminded that as we grow we are not better than others but in desperate need of other people because we can not live out the life Jesus modeled without community. The Christian faith is not just about a PERSONAL eternal destination it is just as much about bringing God’s kingdom into reality here on earth even in our lives. The idea that we will begin to think, live, give, serve, and love like Jesus blows me away and calls me to change in my own life. Growth happens as we care about our fellow man as we care about ourselves.

John says about Gateway community in the book…
“For this reason, our primary goal from day one has been to connect people into small group communities. We teach people how to be a unified community, building up one another in love, using their gifts to serve others in response to the leading of Jesus.”

Could Ephesians 4:11-16 be a road map to helping people discover spiritual growth? For me it helps. This is the mission of the ministries we lead and the door is wide open to discover new ways to help people encounter community and become more like Christ. What an adventure!