Growing in Christ is the third phase of spiritual growth. If you’re in this phase, you most likely agree with this phrase: “I am finding that my relationship with Christ is personal, but not private.” What that means is you have started engaging in the spiritual disciplines at home, even if not as regularly as you’d like, and you feel like Jesus is real in your life. The relationship is personal just like any other one. But you’re realizing that’s not enough. You need more.
In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes words we often hear at weddings. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. Often times we read these words and think, “That is what I need to be.” And in one sense, this is true. But if we keep reading, we find Paul ends this section with, “Follow the way of love.” In other words, let the One who is Love—God himself—lead you to become a person who might love like this. And that sounds really nice, until you realize that love isn’t exercised alone. It takes other people.
You also might be Growing in Christ if you feel like you know most of the Christian lingo and feel more comfortable at church. You've adapted to church culture. Yes, there are phrases that we use and assume that everyone knows their meaning. But that’s not true.
You may be enamored with a certain aspect of the church—like worship music or the preaching or your Sunday School class or some form of outreach—and it becomes easy to make that the mission. In other words, it’s easy to make that the most important thing and be unable to see how it fits with everything else. It is like how a person who gets saved at a VBS when they are a kid thinks that VBS is the best thing since sliced bread and has a hard time if a church doesn’t have one.
1. A deeper connection with the church. This comes through relationships. Relationships that work differently than they seem to work elsewhere. One of the messages we hear often in our world today is, “Be true to your heart.” If this is true, then what is the purpose of friendship? Friends are simply people who affirm what’s going on in my heart, are people who agree with me all the time. They exist to point me back into my heart when I quit listening to it.
Christian friendship doesn’t work that way. There is mutual understanding that neither of our hearts is the one to follow. And, we both exist to encourage one another to follow Christ in our everyday lives. All this to say, one of the needs that those Growing in Christ have is friends in the church.
2. Going public with your faith. Up to this point, you may or may not have felt comfortable letting others know you are a Christian. Perhaps you already have. Just like saying, “I love you” for the first time to someone you’re dating is a point of no return, so is saying, “I’m a follower of Christ.” It brings a weight to what is going on. It doesn’t just let others know you’re a Christian; it also grounds you in who you are when it becomes tempting to shy away from identifying with Jesus.
3. Finally, and here’s a touchy one—just like we need a transformed vision of friendship, we also need a transformed vision of money and possessions. One of the big catalysts for moving from Growing in Christ to Close to Christ is beginning the practice of tithing. A tithe is the first ten percent of our income, given back to God, trusting that he will provide enough.