The Barna Group – Barna Studies the Research, Offers a Year-in-Review Perspective

Theme 4: Effective and periodic measurement of spirituality – conducted personally or through a church – is not common at this time and it is not likely to become common in the near future.

“There are two levels on which evaluation of where we stand spiritually can take place,” noted the California-based author. “There can be external measurement, such as that conducted by pastors, teachers, coaches or peers, and there can be self-evaluation. At the moment, we’re seeing very little of either form of review related to a person’s spiritual condition.

“Our studies this year among pastors showed that almost nine out of ten senior pastors of Protestant churches asserted that spiritual immaturity is one of the most serious problems facing the Church. Yet relatively few of those pastors believe that such immaturity is reflected in their church. Few pastors have gone so far as to give their congregants a specific, written statement of how they define spiritual maturity, how it might be measured, the strategy for facilitating such maturity, or what scriptural passages are most helpful in describing and fostering maturity. Those pastors who made any attempt to measure maturity were more likely to gauge depth on the basis of participation in programs than to evaluate people’s spiritual understanding or any type of transformational fruit in their lives. Overall, less than one out of every ten pastors said they were completely satisfied with how they assess the spiritual condition of their congregation.

“The situation is similar among Christian individuals. Americans have an almost insatiable curiosity about themselves and how they stack up against others. Yet, in the spiritual realm, that same level of curiosity is much less apparent. Perhaps it is because of the lack of tools for such measurement or even the absence of motivation to grow or to deepen their relationship with God.

“Not surprisingly,” he continued, “our research found that a majority of churchgoing adults are uncertain as to what their church would define as a ‘healthy, spiritually mature follower of Christ’ and they were no more likely to have personally developed a clear notion of such a life.

“It may well be that spiritual evaluation is so uncommon because people fear that the results might suggest the need for different growth strategies or for more aggressive engagement in the growth process. No matter what the underlying reason is, the bottom line among both the clergy and laity was indifference toward their acknowledged lack of evaluation. That suggests there is not likely to be much change in this dimension in the immediate future. In other words, as we examine the discipleship landscape, what we see is what we get – and what we will keep getting for some time.”

The first three themes were not that surprising; however, I found the fourth quite interesting and something (that is, defining and measuring our spiritual maturity) we need to employ at CCCI.

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