Why Most Prescriptions For Spiritual Growth Fail

In this short clip from John Ortberg, the case is made that God never works on two people the same way. Ortberg says that our growth in Christ will never look the same as someone else’s. Then why are the prescriptions for spiritual growth so standard?

Let’s say that I am trying to become more generous with my giving. The most common recommendation is to find the scriptures related to giving and generosity followed behind by prayer and then maybe a book recommendation on the topic. But what if I don’t like to read, or what if my prayer life stinks more than my generosity or what if I don’t have a concordance or know what scriptures to read on the topic?

Again we return to the similarities found in exercise. No good personal trainer is going to prescribe the same recommendations for a 23-year-old female with slight build as he would a 57-year-old man who is overweight. Then why do well-intentioned mentors, pastors, and friends make such generic recommendations with little consideration for personality, learning styles, context, time constraints, and so on? No wonder so many good-hearted Christians feel frustrated with their spiritual growth. They have come to the conclusion that there really isn’t much they can do because they do not respond to the most common methods of discipleship.

I know of two assessment tools (Monvee and Christian Life Profile) that attempt to customize spiritual growth plans for an individual but I would suggest that anyone wanting to follow Christ needs to be willing to experiment with what works for them. Ten years ago, when God broke through in my life I went on a search to find what resonated the most for me. It took me several months of slogging through materials and exercises that weren’t really effective for me until I discovered some of the activities, mentalities, and practices that really helped me grow. If you are serious about becoming more Christlike then turn your wishful thinking into a journey of growth. Ask the Holy Spirit  to help you discover anything that builds your relationship with God. Have an open mind to what works. Don’t assume that what works for your pastor will work for you. Find fellow sojourners who will walk beside you and not dictate your choices but help you find the most effective ones.

In the next post, I will list a few activities that might help kick start your thinking along these lines.

3 thoughts on “Why Most Prescriptions For Spiritual Growth Fail

  1. Hi Scott, just wanted to share that your Spiritual Enrichment Workout (think that’s what you called it) tips have been helpful. It has been especially good for me to only focus on a few verses a day – I tended to read in large chunks but then not take that reading with me for the rest of the day. Also, intentionally NOT praying from my prayer list during that time has been a good change. I’m still not sure about the Fixed Hour Prayer…but not giving up on it yet. 🙂

    1. Thanks Stephanie. I am glad you are getting something out of it. The main purpose behind the Fixed Hour Prayer is how it focuses me on who God is and where I stand as his child. The authored prayers and Psalms seem to word things so much better than I can and are so theologically rich that I can’t help but focus my mind more on God and less on myself. If you want a more simpler version, just read a Psalm a day during your Enrichment time and follow it up with this prayer:

      Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.†

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