(Spiritual Growth, hindrances and mandates for growth! Notes towards an article on spiritual development):
Slouching into spiritual parenting to be born. Most of us slouch into spiritual development rather than going for His greater formation in us, willingly and with gusto!
Yet,The bible is filled with models and encouragements towards spiritual growth. We are those growing into Christ’s Nature, and there are seasons of this growth. And we need help growing. We specifically need to know which season of His Life we are in, and who He is providing to aid us towards greater maturity.
We will be shown who our spiritual guardians are, and who we are meant to be guarding in terms of their spiritual growth. This does not have to be institutional, but rather can be organically led by the spirit. It is often discovered in prayer! Still, there are levels of authority and seasons to come under, and seasons to cover others in life. When we do not know who our spiritual parents are, or if we do not know who we ourselves are spiritually parenting, deep investment into the life of the spirit becomes confused. God is correcting this. There are also generational wounds which create role confusion.
Of course, all the five fold are not flowing in perfect tandem currently, but God is at work making us more one. Part of that work is confessing the generational blocks which have kept us from working in unity! And being a better expression or representative of His Body. We need to get ourselves into a place of least resistance to the formation of His full Body in with and through us. Some of this requires us to roll away man placed stones which were never meant to block His Resurrective life from flowing through His Body!
Generational wounds which block spiritual growth:
Growing up together into the fullness of who He made us, is our goal. Some of us are still slaves, others children, and some have become parents. We are to work in tandem under His Headship and in His Love to help grow one another up into the fullness of His Life in us, and thus into who we really are.
Galatians 4 and I John are the clearest passages where the process of true spiritual growth are revealed in The New Testament. Each has slightly different metaphors for the same process. And both writers are modeling what spiritual growth is supposed to look like. Both men are also speaking from a state of spiritual maturity. It looks like teaching laboring crying out until Christ is fully formed in others beneath them. Both men were spiritual parents to the church, so their model is one we can follow.
When young, we need guardians, and we need rules or spiritual boundaries, until we can embody them in our hearts more fully. Paul put it like this—you Galatians needed the Law until the fulfillment of the law came in Christ. Now no longer be slaves to the law, but those who live “in the law” of His Nature and Spirit. He was also speaking of stages of spiritual growth in this passage. (Galatians 4).
We also need to be named. Jesus asked Peter, who do you say I am, and then once Peter answered correctly, Jesus named Peter—told him who He was spiritually. Jesus gave Peter his spiritual identity! John blessed or commended the young for their spiritual discipline of following the word, and overcoming by believing and applying the word. He was naming where they were at, and offering a father’s blessing.
Looking here, at the need for guardians and external structures when young, then the passage into knowing the Father. That deeper sanctification. When you are meant to become an elder or mentor. To no longer be under guardians, but to be in Christ co-ruling with Him. In short, to know and manifest The Father.
John commends youth for following the word—the disciplined will; then there is a stage of the embodied will—Christ in us, through us, around us, our “knowing” of God. Where Your moral conscious is in tandem with your will. Here, John commends the elders for “knowing The Father.” They have embodied His very Life in theirs. These are two unique types of blessings depending on the stage of spiritual growth.
You can see with many of us, that there is this gap in that transition between child and adulthood. Coming under spiritual authority until you become one, is the basic method to pass from slave to co-heirs. In our days, usually trust in authority is the issue. But John commends youth for coming under guardians until they can know The Father more fully, and can cover others.
I think then you have this whole transition from youth into spiritual adulthood. Generationally, you can see how our blocks passed on to those beneath us. Fear of abuse in authority has kept us from coming under it, and thus accelerating our spiritual growth.
For many, adulthood as simply never looked attractive. There have been no models in their lives of the peace and fruits of true spiritual parenthood. But once you see one, you want to become one! Our culture elevates youth. But also lacks models of true adulthood. The scriptures are not like that. The fathers and mothers are indeed the most nobel and sacrificial, and trustworthy. Paul and John being good examples. They were able to pour out their lives like Christ for those beneath them. They manifested the fruits of the spirit!
Too many young people are sent out into ministry, before having come under, and being fully grown.
This is understandable given the generational wounds; and yet, it stunts or slows down spiritual growth. We can accelerate His growth in us, by coming into His order—the order of the family or Body of God.
You cannot just occasionally grab some fruit from elders, you have to actually seek them out and sit under them. And they in turn, have to say yes—to claim and name you as their own.
My generation has more of Bill Murray’s character’s problem in the film, “Lost in Translation”: i never wanted to be a father, i hate fathers. That’s our collective wound. We didn’t want to grow up, because we had no models or didn’t like what we saw. Or were abused by them.
But the way this stunts those beneath us, has become obvious. Owen Wilson, the son character in that film responded to his father: “come on man, lead. Lead.”
That’s the wound from both generations touching one another. It’s a great scene about what needs to be healed between the generations for their to become spiritual growth for both generations. Wilson’s character also reveals this ambiguity of not being sure if he is a legitimate son or not. The father had not named him, and claimed him, and he was on a quest to find out if this was his true dad. A perfect metaphor and picture of the two generations struggles to mature.
If we were not named or claimed by our fathers. And if the father’s never wanted to be fathers, we certainly have difficulty in even desiring to grow up spiritually. If the parents are distant, abusive or simply disown us, how can we grow and know who we are. I have friends whose fathers literally wrote them out of their wills. Other’s who were physically or emotionally abusive. How can one grow up in that environment, feeling safe enough to become. That’s a huge collective wound. But the heavenly father is unlike those earthly fathers, and covers us in safety, love kindness and instruction (his word) until we can become! To correct this experienced broken image of fatherhood, is a major task in our times. But we cannot mature without mending this image of God.
But the Bible is clear that we are to be maturing into His Headship and Nature. We should all be moving into spiritual adulthood in His Nature. We are meant to be growing into spiritual adults. And we are responsible for our own rebellions to this process.
From word ruled, to Christ embodied is the progression. The word becomes flesh in us! That’s the progression!
Where our very will is ruled by His Presence. Blessed are you older ones for you KNOW the Father. You have embodied His life. Until then, you are under the rules and structures of the bible and older believers.
In Galatians, Paul is talking about the overall passage of history, from a time of law to a time of incarnation; but it can also be applied to spiritual maturity. There is a time we are meant to be under the rules of the Kingdom and guardians. In this passage, it is revealing that it is good to be under the guardians, until the “appointed time” for be co-heirs. We are to come under the bible and guardianship until we have come to know or embody the Father. John echoes this same maturation process.
For John, there are youth, stewards and those who know. But the idea is the same. For a season we are to apply the word from the outside, to discipline our wills towards His Kingdom principles; then we enter a space of embodiment or knowing The Father, and there are other responsibilities—for one, to, like Paul and John become spiritual parents!
Paul is modeling spiritual parenting, in calling his children into maturity!
He is teaching them how this pattern is revealed in history, but he is also laboring and suffering like a mother and father for their maturity. That’s the role of the spiritual parent.
The role of the child is to come under guardians and the structures of scripture.
Galatians 4 maps what spiritual maturity is supposed to look like and be heading towards. In I John, we see the blessings for each stage of development. John blesses each stage—the youth are blessed for coming under guardians and applying the word; the older are blessed for knowing The Father. When we get older we are responsible for stewarding spiritual growth in Him. Continuing to grow ourselves in The father, and guarding or covering others as they grow.
The basic metaphor is from childhood into adulthood. Both Paul and John use the natural growth process applied spiritually.
There are many other embedded models for spiritual growth in scripture, but these are the clearest from the New Testament.
What Dallas Willard speaks of as growing into a place where Christ is embodied in the will. Or the embodied will—where Jesus is guiding even our unconscious processes. This is our goal. Where He has seeped into the whole self.
Until then, we use our disciplined will to obey. There is this passage in growth from mere obedience to embodiment or fuller incarnation of the Life of Christ in us.
Many of us have blocks around coming under true spiritual authority. This can be from having experienced abuse or neglect at the hands of elders. Or, just because we have not been around true spiritual authority before. But this keeps us from growing. We can accelerate our growth, by coming under more readily, the guardianship of scriptures and of stewards above us. Then we grow more quickly.
My generation really struggled with this “coming under”, and the one beneath us also struggles with it. My generation also inherited a distrust in authority on many levels. As Bill Murray said again, i never wanted to be a father, because i hate fathers! That’s a sad statement really.
We confess our sin of resisting and distrusting authority. And we ask to become trusted authorities! So that the younger can sit beneath us, and grow faster, even beyond our levels of growth.
Of course, the abuse of authority is a wound which takes time to heal, but if we resist the true Pauls and Johns in our lives, we slow down our own growth.
Paul was often frustrated that people were not maturing under his care. They should be eating meat, but still drinking milk.
John was frustrated that not only could they not come under the law, but also had trouble coming out from the “elements of the world”. Both are frustrating. And we see it daily. Those who should be already leading, still not fully under the laws of God and still swayed by the spirits and ways of the world—lust etc.
We are challenged throughout scripture to grow up into Him. To not stay as infants.
What are our personal blocks at the stage of growth we currently are. If younger, do we have blocks around applying the discipline of the scriptures or coming under spiritual leadership?
If we are adults do we have blocks still around covering others, or not being willing to guard and labor for those younger than us spiritually?
These are questions I’ve been asking in my studies of spiritual growth.
I also see one other factor. If we ourselves were not spiritually discipled well. Do we either not cover, or pre-send people into adulthood. That is do we release the child to flail there way out into the world, without having fully matured yet? This is a problem with our parenting. To send people out into ministry or whatever, before they are mature, is to invite spiritual disaster.
You see this in many ministers who were promoted before their time. Who did not wait until what John called, “the Father’s appointed time.”. We, as spiritual parents, are responsible to send well. To cover until its time to release the child. If we don’t do this well, the child will be eaten by wolves. And that is on our watch, and we are held responsible for it.
Wisdom is required to see where the child is at spiritually and what nutrients they need to mature to the point where they themselves can parent others.
Let us be growing in that wisdom.
In conclusion, we must confess our generation’s sins, which have kept us from spiritual maturity. We must confess the places where we have not come under His provided authority of both the scripture or word, and those people He has placed over us to protect and nurture our growth. Then we must take our position in the spiritual saga! Then we will receive the particular blessing of that stage of growth. If young, the blessing of overcoming and the opportunity to have great faith in what God has provided for our growth. If older, the pleasures and sanctified labors of spiritual parenthood which both Paul and John modeled very well.
If we believe the Bible, we have no choice to not be growing up spiritually—to be growing into the fullness of His Headship. Each of us is responsible to be growing whatever stage we in. I recognize that many have been wounded at each stage of growth, but this does not offer us an excuse not to apply His Cross and continue to grow up to become co-heirs with Christ! It is for His pleasure that we become Jesus’ brothers and sisters, first fruits of His Great actions on our behalf. Our God is Love and He has provided all we need at each stage to grow up in Him! Let us say yes, and receive it.
Of course, forgiveness has to come from both generations so we can work in tandem and all be maturing in Christ. The older must forgive their own parents, and then forgive the kids beneath them for their distrust and distance, or projections of their own experiences of neglect. The younger must confess rebellion from coming under authority, and forgive their spiritual parents for being resistant or not present in their lives. There is lots of needed forgiveness on all sides. But well worth it, if we want to get on with going deeper into the Life God has provided for us, through His Great sacrifice. We are meant to be His Masterpieces, and He who started a good work in us, shall finish it!
If we are not parenting, then something will come in to fill that gap. Both Paul and John mention this. False teachers had come into their congregations and started to false parent in their absence. False mentoring will always fill a vacuum. We, as spiritual parents are responsible to be present and labor and protect, as any good parent would. Children are responsible to respect and obey their parents. So each of us has a responsibility in spiritual growth.
confession for my generation of leaders:
I ask forgiveness for not always being there (present) as a parent. I avoided the role for part of my life, partly from fear of being no good at it. Or fear of failure, lack of models, or abusive models etc. I am sorry for the places where false parents came in to fill those gaps. Now, i take up that parenting mantle and ask to move in love with it. All of under His Headship forever.
I also ask forgiveness for sending you out from my protection pre-maturely, or not following up to make sure you had what you needed to flourish. I feel those spaces in through my prayers right now. You are guarded, protected and adored towards your own spiritual growth! Be blessed as you become who you truly are in Him!
At the same time, i have felt great resistance from younger ones at times also. Distrust and projected parent issues which made it difficult to disciple them. Paul also spoke of this issue, later in that same Galatians passage. “Have I now become your enemy? At first you would take out your own eyes and give them to me, now are you resistant from receiving my corrections and teachings?” Here is a father who is hurting, and experiencing some rejection from his spiritual children. So you see it goes both ways.
The fact is we are all growing under and into the same Head, but each of us is at a unique stage on that journey, and have particular aspects of His Life we need downloading into our hearts. When we do, we can help others just behind us. We each have our parts to play in the development of the overall organism of His Body on earth. Let us move in the blessing over each season of growth and press on towards the next level of His Life in us, and one another.
These are just a few of the generational blocks I see to us all growing up into Christ together. Some from experience, some from other’s experiences, and mostly from the scriptures. The older I get, the more I am concerned with the spiritual growth of others. The more I want to not block them from becoming. I try to confess things in myself which may block my growth, or block others from coming and receiving the portion of Christ I have received so far. These are just a few of my observations along the way.
Recently I’ve had several dreams about healing coming between the generations, so they can work in tandem to express His Body well. I’ve been praying into these gaps between generations-confessing sins on all sides. What generations really are, are generations of His Purposes. Often, this has little to do with physical age. Joshua, for instance lived through three generations of God’s purposes. Each of us is called to be aware of where we are spiritually in Him, and which parts of His Own expression He is partnering with us to birth and nurture. We need to know which generation we are in, and which one’s to help bless into becoming!
We live in a season of potential accelerated spiritual development. MLK was right in saying that our spiritual growth needs to catch up to our technological growth. Otherwise, we will not use it in wisdom and love. There is an opportunity to grow rapidly in our time, to be baptized more fully into His Life. To allow His deeper incarnation into the whole of our lives, and thus what is around us. Jesus is Lord over every aspect of Reality, and want to enter more fully into His People. This deeper incarnation may have begun at the reformation, but He is now offering a much deeper level of “being in Him”.
We are the ones who must say yes to this deeper embodiment of the Life of Christ in us, through us, and around us. He is offering us rapid discipleship if we align with Him in this generation. He is coming more directly to and into us in this season, and will resist whatever resist His Formation. We must come more quickly to His Cross, dying into a fuller expression of His True Headship in us. When we do, we will find our generational roles and purposes, and we will find those others He is properly linking us with. He is the teleological God—the God of great design! He is able to cause us to come into His Collaborations, and reveal to us our own true names.