“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”― Steven Furtick
I heard Steven say this quote at a Willow Creek Leadership Summit years ago. It has stayed with me. It’s a gentle correction for me when I struggle with my meaning and purpose or when I get spiritually stuck. I’ve been thinking about my own next steps lately as I challenge you to take your next steps. Part of discovering what my next step will be is doing a personal inventory. I can be really hard on myself. I am far more grace-filled with others than I am with myself. So the voice in my head says, “You should be doing more, Jen Wilson! You should be further along by now.”
Let’s be honest. There are many voices vying for the top spot. These voices are real and some are imagined. We are going through the budget process now. So, many will take a look at the money promised or the money we don’t have and try to tell me we cannot do the things I believe God is asking us to do because we have no money. Other leaders will step up to try and encourage us to ‘develop our vision’ or attempt to convince us to accept the fate of the downward spiral of the Church in America. There are the voices of negativity that have been with me since the beginning, “A woman should not be leading a church,” or “We sure aren’t the church we were 10/20/50 years ago!”
All the chatter seems overly dramatic now. It has the potential to derail me. It did years ago. But, I’ve lived through many of these seasons and I have received God’s affirmation of his will and purpose each and every time. I’ve matured in age as well as my spiritual life. I’m not ’there’ by any means but I’m not where I used to be either. I’m on a spiritual life continuum.
Continuum: a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptibly different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct.
I believe God designed the whole universe and everything in it with this continuum in mind. All creation is designed to grow, mature and reproduce. Jesus would say, ‘produce fruit that will last.’ (John 15:16 NIV) Human beings are the only created beings that can circumvent the process and choose not to grow. We can make choices to remain the same or even regress. There is a reason we all know what it means when someone accuses us of acting ‘childishly.’
We are all on our own spiritual journey. It’s deeply personal. There are some indicators along the way that can help guide us toward maturity. I was privileged to be part of a study done years ago to discover what spiritual transformation and growth is all about and if it was truly happening in our local churches. I’ve included a diagram Molly Sommer and Kim Neace have developed called our Spiritual Life Continuum. Take a look. Consider where you might be and what next step God may be calling you to take. We will learn more about the Spiritual Life Continuum. If you want to learn more about the research, please look here: https://www.willowcreek.com/move/Move_Forward_Ch1.pdf
The apostle Paul had some important words for the early church in Ephesus. He knew how difficult developing a mature faith in Jesus Christ would be back then. I believe his words are meant for us today.
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:14-16 NIV