Several years back I had a conversation about spiritual growth with a close friend. Ben was bemoaning the fact that churches generally give little input to parents on getting their teenagers ready for adulthood.
I agreed with Ben, but told him there is an underlying problem–the dominant model of Christian growth in so-called conservative churches is behavioristic. In other words, we mainly focus on people keeping their spiritual noses clean, and the way we do this is by having them jump through various hoops (read programs) we are have set up as indispensable.
These programs (they no longer feel like ministry) tend to promote disembodied principles rather than appreciating the metaphor of a journey or pilgrimage. Granted, there are many invaluable principles to remember, but the Christian life should not be reduced to them. Complexities which get reduced to simplicities where it is not warranted are labeled by philosophers as “reductionistic.” It seems evangelical America is guilty of a dangerous form of spiritual reductionism.
A journey or pilgrimage with its many twists and turns takes into consideration the uncertainties of life. It also underscores, as Will Willimon likes to say, “a richer, thicker Chrisitan life.” It further reminds us, as John Bunyan did so well in The Pilgrim’s Progress, that every Christian’s path of growth has challenges and opportunities for growth which are unique. And that is indeed a refreshing truth amidst cookie-cutter approaches to Christian growth!