Introducing the Spiritual Maturity Project
Jun 23, 2020
Across nearly forty years of ministry, I’ve encountered people of all ages as well as clergy and laity, who speak of desire for more of the Christian life than they’re currently experiencing. “Church life” has become tepid, timid, hypocritical, twisted this way and that by various cultural forces. However we describe it, we know that it doesn’t match what we see in scripture and hunger for in our hearts. We need a fresh touch from God.
We have formed the Spiritual Maturity Project in response to Christ’s call and to do all we can to address this deep need. To aim at this goal, we have to recognize our hunger and be willing to do some work, which includes recognizing the damaging impact of half-truths about God’s grace. Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it cheap grace. John Wesley called it quietism. It’s the notion that Jesus paid it all (he did), therefore we need do nothing. Wrong. If you have signed on to be a follower of Jesus, you have committed yourself, under the gracious hand of the Holy Spirit, to be a student of Jesus, to learn, to grow toward the full measure of the stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
So, some basic points about the Spiritual Maturity Project:
- Spiritual maturity is our term for what John Wesley, following the scriptures, called Christian perfection. It is the goal of the Christian life. It is received by faith. We lean on Christ as we work. He is at work in us. Therefore, we put in the effort to learn, grow, and serve. There are no shortcuts. If you have signed on to follow Jesus, you have committed to growing to maturity.
- Growing to maturity in Christ includes an inescapable intellectual component. I want to pull that word, “intellectual,” back from the wrongheaded notion that it is reserved only for the academic elites. I love the academy. I have spent the past 25 years working in it. But I know a lot of people who are not professors or researchers or scholars in the conventional sense, who love to learn, who are open to new ideas, who understand that ideas matter and who know that we are morally responsible to think clearly and act wisely as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why we take his yoke upon us and learn from him (Mt. 11:28-30).
- To grow, you need to read good scholarship from reliable, Christ-loving, godly scholars. They do exist and I want to help you get better acquainted with them. Unfortunately, like the word “intellectual,” “scholarship” is a dirty word to too many people. Yes, there are plenty of academics who are skeptical about religious faith, especially of orthodox, evangelical Christianity, but there are also many who are passionate, articulate advocates for and teachers of the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude). If you don’t know them already, I’m going to introduce you to some first-rate scholars (both professors and pastors) who are dedicated followers of Christ. They write serious scholarship, but they also know that they have a vocation – they are called by God – to write for the edification of believers. If you don’t know them already, I can’t wait to promote them to you.
- For these reasons, the Spiritual Maturity Project will not “dumb down” the materials we share with you. You are plenty smart enough to learn. More importantly, God providentially uses our halting efforts to grow us into Christlikeness. The only thing you need is an open willing heart and the courage to be an honest learner.
So, with this blog post, we are officially announcing the start-up of the Spiritual Maturity Project. The pandemic has caused us to alter our plans for the rollout. For a while, we’re going to do everything online. We’ll start with a free online course exploring John Wesley’s A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. We’re going to get familiar with the scope and depth of what the scriptures have to say about spiritual maturity through this lens. Starting July 8, I will guide four Wednesday evening Zoom sessions to practice thinking about spiritual maturity as the goal of our discipleship. What does Christian perfection mean? What does it not mean? Why does it matter? If you would like to join, go to www.spiritualmaturityproject.org and register. I’ll be waiting to greet you.