From the beginning, Pastor Rick’s vision for Saddleback Church was to attract unbelievers, lead them to Christ, grow them into mature believers through the work of the Holy Spirit, and send them out on mission, all for God’s global glory. His goal was always to be a disciple-making and disciple-sending church. Out of this vision, came the Purpose Driven paradigm as the intentional process to accomplish this goal.
He first asked the question, “What is spiritual maturity?” and then, “How might one measure it?” He knew it was a myth that spiritual maturity is measured only on what you know. Pastor Rick says, “Many churches evaluate spiritual maturity solely on the basis of how well you can identify Bible characters, interpret Bible passages, quote Bible verses, and explain biblical theology. The ability to debate doctrine is considered by some as the ultimate proof of spirituality.” Some people who are not even believers have an incredible knowledge of the Bible without any spiritual growth in their lives. Spiritual maturity is not just cognitive.
So he set about to discover the characteristics of spiritual maturity and how leadership could measure it. He came to the conclusion that spiritual growth could be measured by five factors. Pastor Rick calls it, the “Five Levels of Learning — the Building Blocks of Spiritual Growth.”
The five levels of learning are developmental in nature — that is, each one builds on the other. Spiritual maturity begins with knowledge, but includes the presence of other building blocks.
Knowledge is knowing the content of God’s Word, and gaining a working understanding of the books, events, and people of the Bible. Without this knowledge, you don’t have an essential foundation. It is the first step to spiritual maturity, the building block with which you begin.
The Bible says in Hosea, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6a NIV).
That’s how important this is.
But is knowledge all you need? Obviously not. The Bible says if all I have is knowledge, it just puffs me up, and makes me prideful. “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1b NIV). So I need both. I need more than knowledge. There are some people in church who come in and fill up notebook after notebook, yet somehow they never transfer the notebook knowledge into their hearts.
They have a whole notebook about compassion, but they’re the sourest person you’ve ever met. What’s happening?
They have a whole notebook about what the Bible says about the power of Jesus in their life, yet when you look at their lives, there is no power. What’s happening?
It’s the fact that knowledge is not enough. Some people just fill themselves with more and more knowledge.
They’ve got lots of knowledge. They think they’re spiritual giants. But they’re really bloated believers. They’re fatter and fatter with knowledge. They get so fat with knowledge that when they come to church, you have to roll them down the aisle to get them to their seats. (Maybe this is where the term “holy rollers” came from!) They have so much in their heads, but somehow it never gets in their heart.
You have to have knowledge but you also need . . .
Knowledge is knowing the content of God’s Word. Perspective is seeing things from God’s point of view, having a Christian worldview. It is understanding why God does what he does. The Apostle Paul tells us that perspective is a mark of spiritual maturity:
“Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14 NASB).
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God . . . because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV).
When I have perspective, I can love God more. What if you could see the sin that you struggle with as God sees it? It wouldn’t last if we could really see it like God sees it. That’s what we’re talking about when we talk about perspective. It helps me love him more.
Another word for perspective, and not a very popular word today, is “doctrine.”
Christian doctrine is Christian perspective. Christian doctrine is Christian worldview. One of Saddleback Church’s ways to help our members get God’s perspective is the doctrine class we call Foundations. This class is built on the 11 doctrines that are at the center of our perspective on life.
When you understand the truth about God, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, you understand the truth about life; you see life as God meant us to see it.
Another aspect of perspective is knowing how God has worked in the past. It gives us a glimpse into how he may work with and through us in the present. You need knowledge and you need perspective.
As you look through the list of doctrines, you may find that there are some truths for which you have a greater sense of conviction than others. This conviction is the third building block that is vital to our growth as believers.
Having convictions means developing godly values, commitments, and motivations.
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NASB).
An opinion is something that I’ll argue with you about, but a conviction is very different. A conviction is something that I’ll die for. A conviction is something that has caught my life and all of me.
When I was a new believer, I did things because other Christians did things. They prayed; I prayed. They went to church; I went to church. I found that the more I grew as a believer, the more I developed my own convictions about those things so that whether or not anyone else was doing them, I would decide to do them. That’s the development of conviction in our lives.
“The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God” (Romans 14:22a NASB).
Jesus was a man of deep conviction. Do a study of the times that Jesus said, “I must do this.” You will see that his life was guided by convictions. So every class, every study, every experience, everything we do as leaders should build conviction in people’s thinking and actions.
Conviction is the turning point in a person’s journey to spiritual maturity. Once people are clear in their convictions, they are motivated to develop skills to live them out.
Skills are learning the “how-to’s” of Christian living and ministry.
“If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success” (Ecclesiastes 10:10 NIV).
How to share your faith, how to pray, how to get answers. There are some people who have a great conviction about something, but they don’t have the skill yet.
Have you known anybody who had a great conviction about witnessing, for instance, but didn’t have the skill? So they’d beat people over the head, almost, with the Bible. They had a lot of conviction, but they were chasing people away. Somebody just needed to give them the skills.
Some people have a great conviction about prayer, but they don’t have the skill yet. No one has set them down and taught them how the Bible teaches us to pray.
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman . . . who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NIV).
Starting with a foundation of knowledge, gaining perspective by understanding God’s point of view, and holding convictions upon which we stake our lives — this gives one the motivation to build skills, all of which results in Christ-like character, our ultimate goal.
Character is becoming like Christ in attitudes and actions. There is not a better definition of spiritual maturity than these three words, “Being Like Christ.” Like Jesus in the way we act, the way we think, the way we feel, the way we believe.
“The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5 NASB).
“We must become like a mature person, growing until we become like Christ and have his perfection” (Ephesians 4:13b NCV).
“You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ” (Colossians 3:10a TLB).
This is a goal that we’ll spend the rest of our lives reaching towards! Have you ever met a person who said, “I’m as like Jesus as I want to be, I’ve finished the job, and I act exactly as Jesus would act in every situation”? No, of course not!
We must be intentional in every strategy, program, and teaching opportunity to “make disciples.” It doesn’t happen by accident. Understand that the five levels build on each other. At each level we have a goal for our people and must ask ourselves vital questions as we develop our strategies and programs.