“My concern is that evangelicals have not given the necessary attention to this great theme, the spiritual development of Christian life and thought. As a result, Christianity impoverishes. “- Theologian Alister McGrath
At a discipleship training seminar, I miserly counted a season of exhaustion and consequent spiritual crisis with the hope that the students would see vital fruits of a season of painful deconstruction. Instead, a student asked, “What can I do to make sure this never happens to me?” Obviously bewildered, I gave an eloquent answer. His question revealed serious flaws (albeit very common) in his approach to Christian growth and discipleship. I’m going to tell him:
“We are saved from the human journey: We are saved because Jesus refuses to leave us alone in it.” – Rachel Kenny
Paula D’Arcy said, “God comes disguised as your life.” This means that seen rightly, our human life and development should be seen as a series of invitations to a deeper relationship with God. As Christians, our calling is to imitate Jesus, but we simply can not get rid of his humanity. Jesus did not rise above His human existence; rather, He communicated with God in it. Our victory is not that we escape the ups and downs of human life through our faith. Our victory is that Jesus redeemed these human experiences through His experiences. The Christian path of discipleship is deeply human, where the Holy Spirit desires us to stand face to face with our wilderness of questions, our fearful Gethsemane, even with our grave of hopelessness … and eventually, develop the ears to hear and the eyes to see the Father in a totally new way. And we will not do it only once in our lives … we will do it over and over again.
“[Christian spirituality] will always be dynamic – evolving and changing. Turning it into something fixed and rigid is leaving it soulless, for what is no longer evolving is dead. “- Dr. David Benner
Human beings go through stages of faith, just as they go through other stages of development (mental, emotional, social, physical).
When my son was five years old, he said: “But I do not want Jesus in my heart! I want him in my house to play with! “He was still a few thousand neurons in the development of abstract thinking. Four years later, his brain developed in a way that allowed his understanding of faith to deepen. Healthy children naturally pass through the stages of faith. As we become adults, moving from one stage of faith to another is often marked by doubts, questions and (for some) exhaustion, depression and anxiety … even the midlife crisis.
Moving from one stage of faith to another is not the same as spiritual growth; it is a revolution in every way we relate to God, ourselves, and the world. Dr. James Fowler says, “The meaning of our lives is at stake in the transitions of the stage of faith.”
In a recent project I oversaw, I met nearly a dozen people involved in some kind of transitional ministry of the faith stage. 1 Unfortunately, everyone felt immense shame and only wanted to speak in private. No one felt that their Christian community would understand; some considered leaving it. They were all concerned with judgment and rejection. This speaks volumes about our communities of faith: We do not teach believers that doubt, discomfort and even the crisis of faith are fundamental parts of the journey; instead, we suggest that they are failing on the journey. So how can we better disciple these tumultuous transitional stations of faith?
Become familiar with a Faith Development Map:
Much has been written by psychologists and theologians about this, but much of what has been debated and improved has been developed from the influential work of Dr. James Fowler: Stages of Faith. He states that all humans have the possibility of going through six stages of faith. No stage can be ignored as it builds the platform to enter the next stage. Keep in mind that an adult can stop development in the second stage or in anyone else.
The 6 Stages of Faith: (We will explore them in depth in the next three weeks.)
- Stage 1: Primal (3-6 years) God is experienced as an extension of those who offer primary care (those who cared for us in our early years), as a sense of love and security … or a lack thereof . Reality and fantasy are mixed. So my 4-year-old said, “Before there were people, there were zombies. Jesus came to kill the zombies, or they would eat people’s brains. “(I have no idea where he learned about zombies, but at least Jesus made him feel safe.)
- Stage 2: Literalist (7-11 years) – The healthiest version of this stage is to relate to God as a superhero, powerful and just. However, when an adult remains in this phase, he sees God first as a judge, whose anger or blessing can be automatically and impersonally unleashed. Therefore, it is necessary to bargain with this (somewhat magical) God to appease him through strict but unexamined obedience.
I heard a man advising a woman who had argued with her husband. He warned her that she had to forgive him before the sun went down or she was sinning. This was his literal interpretation of the proverb: “Do not let the sun set on your wrath.”
- Stage 3: Legalist (Adolescence and beyond) – This is a strong, sure and bold faith … the strength of any organization. At this stage, belief and identity are kept within the group; therefore, questioning the group’s beliefs and values is a betrayal of them. However, we all need this basis to further explore our identity and faith.
- The Wall: Experts suggest that most Western evangelicals will never surpass this existential barrier from Stage 3 to Stage 4 (up to 80%). 2 3 4 .
- Estágio 4: Crítico (dos 20 aos 30 anos ou mais) – Este estágio é hesitante e marcado por questões, dúvidas e ceticismo, mas o objetivo é, eventualmente, passar para uma fé examinada e uma identidade mais verdadeira. Os Legalistas acham que os críticos estão se desviando. A maioria nunca completará este estágio; e a maioria das pessoas que deixam a igreja faz isso neste momento. Esta é a transição mais difícil, especialmente se a pessoa passar por ela mais tarde na vida. Crise da meia-idade!
- Estágio 5: Vidente (Início da meia-idade e além) – Esta é uma fé fortalecedora, onde maravilha e reverência são revividos. Está viva para a beleza do paradoxo e do mistério, é apaixonada pela visão de Jesus da humanidade; e está pronta para desmantelar o significado da primeira metade da vida, a fim de viver a partir de profundidades mais profundas.
- Estágio 6: Santo (Meia idade e além) O estudo de Fowler sugere que menos de 1,6% da humanidade chegará a esse estágio. Em seu estudo, descobriu que a maioria tinha pelo menos 60 anos de idade. Esta é uma fé forte marcada por uma disposição sacrificial de ser a personificação da reconciliação. Os que estão nesta fase são movidos por “nós” em vez de “nós e eles” da terceira fase. Não confunda isso com o alcance da perfeição.
O Objetivo do Desenvolvimento da Fé Não É Subir ao Topo.
Um relacionamento pleno com Deus pode ser experimentado em cada estágio, porém, você provavelmente esteja tentando se colocar em um deles, esperando que seja um dos últimos. (Talvez eu esteja além da minha idade?) Tenha certeza de que a jornada espiritual não tem a ver com o acesso a um clube exclusivo. Deus não tem pressa que você cresça até o estágio 6.
Deus é um bom pai. Um bom pai adora sua filha recém-nascida, deliciando-se com seus dedinhos do pé e, mais tarde, com seus primeiros passos. Ele assiste com admiração enquanto ela descobre seus dons e talentos únicos. Ele a guia pelos anos difíceis da adolescência, lembrando-a da beleza interior que ela não consegue ver em si mesma. Ele vai torcer ao vê-la ir à universidade ou conseguir seu primeiro emprego. Ele vai segurá-la quando ela falhar e quando o coração dela for partido. E… um dia, ele a acompanhará na entrada de seu casamento, arrebatado pela criatura extraordinária que ajudou a criar… antecipando os netos, os anos de meia-idade dela… aquelas estações maduras nas quais ela passará a apreciá-lo de novas maneiras. Seu Pai celestial gosta de te encontrar em todas as fases da sua fé e da sua vida.
Nas próximas três semanas, espero dar-lhes um novo paradigma para o desenvolvimento da fé… um que o ajude a entender sua jornada, a guiá-lo enquanto discipula outros ou a restaurar a esperança em meio à sua própria crise de fé. Então fique ligado!
Referências e Estudo Adicional:
Benner, D. G. (2012). Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation.
Brewen, K. (2007). Signs of Emergence: A Vision for Church That Is Always Organic/Networked/Decentralized/Bottom-Up/Communal/Flexible/Always Evolving.
Fowler, J.W. (1995). Stages of faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. (First published in 1981).
Jamieson, A.K. (1998). A Churchless Faith: Faith Outside the Evangelical Pentecostal/Charismatic Church of New Zealand (Doctoral dissertation).
Jamieson, A. (2002). A Churchless Faith: Faith Journeys beyond the Churches.
- Recoverable in Gloscais Conversations: Contemplative and Incorporated Worship to Meditate the Transition of the Faith in YWAM https://gc.uofn.edu/index.php/gc/article/view/80 ↩
- Fowler, JW Stages of Faith ↩
- Jamieson, A. Churchless Faith ↩
- Brewen, K. Signs of Emergence ↩
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