After a person places their faith in Christ, they then begin a lifelong journey of spiritual growth and maturity. As a person learns more about God and His Word, and spends time in prayer and fellowship with other believers, they grow in Christlikeness.
Not only is this process lifelong, but it can often be up and down, forward and backward. It can even side to side! But take heart … over time, the big picture of our lives should be one of spiritual growth and maturity. I like what Paul says in Galatians 4:15, that he feels like he is, “In the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you …” He was desperate for these young, new believers in Galatia to grow and mature in their new walk with God.
The above diagram shows six steps along the Pathway to Christian Growth. Understanding each step can greatly help a person know where they are at today. More importantly, it helps understand how to continue to grow for the future.
1. The Pre-Believer
This is how a person is born, without the Spirit of God in their lives.
1 Corinthians 2:14 — “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God …”
Ephesians 2:11 — “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.”
How to Help to Move Forward:This person needs God to grant them repentance, lead them to the truth, and help them come to their senses (2 Timothy 2:25-26). Also helpful would be a solid Christian witness in their life shining the light of Christ and sharing the gospel.
2. Questioning Seeker
This person is questioning. What happens after death? How the world come to be? Is Jesus real? Can I trust the Bible? God is revealing Himself to them through creation.
Romans 1:19-20 — “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
How to Help to Move Forward:This person needs to be born again spiritually (John 3:7). A Christ follower in their path is certainly helpful to give a clear explanation of the gospel and an opportunity to respond in faith (John 14:6).
3. New Christian
This person has repented of their sins and placed their faith in Christ (not in good works or being a good person) for salvation and eternity in heaven with God. They are born again and saved. The Bible calls them infants in Christ or a ‘babe’ in Christ.
Romans 10:9 — “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Ephesians 2:8-9 — “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
1 Corinthians 3:1 — “Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly — mere infants in Christ.”
How to Help to Move Forward:Follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 17). A mature believer is also helpful in guiding and disciplining while helping them plug into a Bible-based local church.
4. Growing Christian
This person is no longer an infant in Christ but a ‘spiritual man’ growing in their ability to resist temptation. They are yielding to the Holy Spirit and also bearing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives on an increasing basis.
1 Corinthians 2:15 — “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement.”
Galatians 5:22-23 — “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
Help to Move Forward:This person needs to be discipled and to ask for and accept opportunities for growth. This includes participating in missions, volunteering with a ministry and learning about their specific spiritual gifts.
5. Leading Christian
This person walks with God, studies the Bible consistently and is an example to others. They are a leader in the church and ministries. They are often the ones people go to for advice, prayer and wisdom in different aspects of life. This person is likely a discipler, a Bible study leader, a ministry worker.
1 Timothy 4:12, 13 — ” Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”
2 Timothy 2:15 — ” Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
Help to Move Forward:This person needs to guard against pride. More people are seeking their wisdom and they move into more positions of leadership. They need to remain teachable and focus their time on what they are uniquely gifted and created to do. They need to seek accountability and fellowship.
6. Great Commission Christian
This person lives with an eternal mindset and strives to layup treasure in heaven. They purposefully seeks opportunities to share their faith in Christ and disciples others. They seek to multiply their life with their finances, time and talents.
Matthew 28:18-20 — “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
Hebrews 12:1-3 — “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Help to Move Forward:This person needs to continue the basics of spending time with God in both prayer and Bible study. They should not let Christian busyness rob them of intimate time with God. They should continue to trust God for new chapters in their walk with Him. Furthermore, they should seek to take fresh steps of faith.
A Few Reminders: The pathway to Christian growth can be bumpy with a twists and turns and the feeling of taking two steps forward and one back! But the overall picture should be one of growth and maturity over time.
As you look at the Pathway picture above … where would you say you are at currently? Where would you like to grow and mature? The good news is that where you are this moment is not as important as where you are going!
A great place to start your pathway to Christian growth is with my Bible study - Start Here Six Foundational Lessons for Growth in Christ. These 6 lessons can help you (or women you are discipling) grow and mature and be a tool in God’s hands to help others in the future!
If you would like a copy of this Pathway diagram in a full-page view please email me at Lori@LoriJoinerMinistries.org and I will gladly send.
Questions? Please reach out to me at lorijoinerministries.org.
In Part 1 of the “Speaking the Truth in Love” series, we talked about five elements to keep in mind when confronting your disciple about a particular issue that may be hindering her growth in Christ. In this installment, we will look at some sample scripts I have used, along with advice when NOT to confront.
Begin this challenging conversation on a positive note. Share with her something you are proud of her for and affirm her in some specific way. You could tell her you’re proud of a recent step of faith she took, her readiness to learn, or of the single act of bringing a spiritually lost friend to church. Then segue into the truth, always speaking in love.
“Since we’ve begun meeting for discipleship and getting to know each other, there’s something I’ve noticed that I wanted to bring to your attention. It’s hard for me to bring this up because I care about you and don’t want to hurt your feelings. However, because I’m committed to your growth in every area of life, I didn’t want to put off talking about this with you. Over the past _____________ (time period) I’ve noticed that you ____________ (fill in the blank).”
Not only do you want to share the truth in love, but you also need to genuinely help them change for the better.
I remember talking with a disciple, Cheryl, about the critical way she spoke to others. I reminded her of a recent incident in which we brainstormed for an upcoming event. At one point she replied to another woman’s comment with “That’s a stupid idea.”
I gently explained that in the future she could suggest a different idea or say nothing at all. It is not enough to just tell them the truth; help them make the necessary changes. Remember to be specific as you talk. Whatever the issue is, it will be a challenging conversation. But skirting around the real issue won’t help her. It will likely confuse her more.
Knowing when to address an issue and when to keep quiet will take some experience. This list below can help you know when NOT to say anything.
Do not confront a person unless:
Being confronted with blind spots in my life has helped me grow and mature, as well as minister to others more effectively. This is a necessary part of discipleship relationships — or any friendships, for that matter. Don’t put off talking with someone and speaking the truth in love. They’ll thank you for it later, just as I have thanked those who have pointed out my blind spots over the years!
If you desire more information on this topic as well as other scripts to use please see my book Discipling Women. You can find it at: LoriJoinerMinistries.org.
Whether speaking, training, or discipling, Lori brings a passion to see women raised up to be all they can be in the Lord, teaching to women of all ages on a wide variety of topics. She currently makes her home in Katy, TX, with her husband Alan and two young children Josh and Jake.