The latest viral craze circulating the internet these days is the “How old are you?” app. Either people think it’s funny when the app guesses way above, or they think it’s flattering when it guesses completely under! But either way, people are sharing their results like crazy and the app developers are #winning !
Seeing people freely share these age announcements made me wonder how quickly we would share an app that could quantify one’s spiritual age.
And by spiritual age, I don’t mean the length of time you have been a Christian, necessarily, but more along the lines of one’s maturity or development.
There are 3 basic stages, and they fit quite nicely into the trivium of Classical Education.
The first stage would be baby/early childhood
You need milk. You need to be fed. Church is your only interaction with the Bible or worship, and that is where you get all your spiritual nourishment. Everything is new and exciting. Bible verses leap off the page. I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME is your mantra. Nothing is impossible for God. You are starting to see these truths for yourself in your own study.
In Classical Education this first stage is referred to as the “Grammar Stage.” You are filling yourself with information even though you likely don’t understand the depth of what you are hearing. This is an important stage of development, as long as you don’t get stuck there.
Next is the teenage stage.
This is where you start grappling with some of the deeper issues. How does one reconcile suffering with a good God? How does the Bible line up with science? How do the prophecies play out? Discussion is invaluable. However, discussing and debating with grace is a skill that must be learned. Without the proper mentor, this “teenage” Christian thinks he is farther along then he is. Instead of seeking to learn and discern, he assumes he is already there. A little bit of knowledge and a lot of enthusiasm can be dangerous. Here is where rebellion can rear its ugly head. Those you used to admire and respect in the faith, now seem to get in the way of what you think to be best. The need for a mature mentor is crucial in this stage, but admitting you need one takes maturity that is rarely seen.
In Classical Education this stage is called the “Dialectic stage.” This is when logic and dialogue are taught so that one can properly work through the knowledge that has been acquired. The problem that can arise here is that discussion and humble debate can become foolish arguments of which we are cautioned in 2 Timothy 2:23.
Finally we have the Mature Christian stage-
In the first two stages we have learned of Christ and now we start to make Him known. You have built a foundation of information. (Grammar) You have researched and talked through ideas with respected elders.(Dialectic) Now it’s time to put those ideas into your own words and persuade others to follow Christ as you are following.(Rhetoric) But how? Jesus tells us in Matthew 28:19
And make disciples.
In Classical education, this is called the “Rhetorical stage.” Here you take the information you have studied, the issues you have worked through, and begin to express and share them with others. Now you are the mentor, the group facilitator, the Bible teacher. But what I find interesting in this third level of learning is that one word. Learning. Because we all know that the best way to learn something is to what? Teach it! This doesn’t necessarily mean you become a pastor. Teaching can be one on one, or like Jesus, one on 12.
All too often people get comfortable in their particular stage.
Going to church week after week, and never going deeper than that weekly pick me up.
Attending a small group year after year, being mentored but never moving on to become the mentor.
Often God has to do a little agitating to get us to move. A little pushing out of the nest to get us to fly. Which will likely involve some falls straight to the ground.
Is God trying to push you to the next level?
Maybe you have been attending church week after week, but feel lonely, and the need for community? Join a community group.
Maybe you see a need in the body of Christ, and it seems like nobody is filling that need! Pray about stepping up to be a solution.
Pray about who you can begin to pour your life into. And do it. Most likely you will find that becoming the “teacher” makes you the student more intensely than you could have ever imagined.
And here’s the crazy part:
We are always cycling through these stages. You may be in the mature “Rhetoric” stage when it comes to the life of Christ, but what about Prophecy? You may feel that you are ready to mentor a new believer in the ways of Bible study, but what about lessons in humility? Regardless of how long you have been a child of God, there is always something new that we have to learn.
And to really learn something, you need to go through each stage.
For instance, do you want to know more about prayer? Here’s how you do it:
Grammar Stage: Define the word prayer. Look up all the verses on prayer. Read through the Psalms. Memorize key verses.
Dialectic Stage: Get some friends together a go through a book on prayer (a good one is by Timothy Keller) or do a group study on Psalms, maybe invite someone that is a prayer warrior to facilitate the group. Pray together.
Rhetoric: Share what you have learned about prayer with a friend. Ask a younger Christian if they would like to do a study on prayer with you leading. Write a blog post on prayer and submit it to an online source. Have a group of friends over for a special night to study prayer. And PRAY.
I pray that whatever your spiritual age is, you would press on, pursuing as your goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. (Colossians 3:14)