Here’s an interesting Q&A from Out of Ur that’s a good follow-up to my post yesterday about spiritual growth. It’s an interview with Dallas Willard, professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California, on how we assess the spiritual formation of Christians.
Here’s a portion of the Christianity Today blog,
How can churches know if they are being effective at making disciples?
Many churches are measuring the wrong things. We measure things like attendance and giving, but we should be looking at more fundamental things like anger, contempt, honesty, and the degree to which people are under the thumb of their lusts. Those things can be counted, but not as easily as offerings.
Why don’t more churches gauge these qualities among their people?
First of all, many leaders don’t want to measure these qualities because what they usually discover is not worth bragging about. We’d rather focus on institutional measures of success. Secondly, we must have people who are willing to be assessed in these ways. And finally, we need the right tools to measure spiritual formation. There are some good tools available like Randy Frazee’s Christian Life Profile and Monvee.com, which John Ortberg likes.
In the past people grew through relationships with spiritual mentors and by engaging the church community. Is there a danger that these individual assessment tools will remove the role of community in formation?
Any of these devices must be used in a community setting. Assessment tools that work best are a combination of self-assessment and the assessment of a significant other who knows you well. They don’t work with people who don’t want to be assessed, and they should not be administered like individual personality tests that some employers use.
It’s funny. When I lay my head on the pillow at night and reflect on the day, it’s my struggles with those “more fundamental things” like anger, contempt and lust that always come to mind. So even if the church isn’t measuring them, the Holy Spirit within me is.
Is godly conviction of sin enough for spiritual growth? I don’t know. But as Professor Willard suggests, I do believe an important component of it is living transparent lives within a community of believers.
If you’re willing to do that, I don’t think you’ll ever have to wonder whether or not you’re growing spiritually. Others will tell you.