Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Thanks to Brian for filling in for our Worship Pastor Zach Foty who is leading hundreds of students in worship this morning at Camp Shamineau.
I don’t know if you’ve heard this story before, but towards the end of Albert Einstein’s life, he was at a dinner party.
While he was there, a young neighbor asked the white-haired scientist, “What are you actually by profession? Like, what would you say you actually do?”
Einstein replied, “I devote myself to the study of physics.”
The girl looked at him in astonishment and said, “You mean to say you still STUDY physics at your age? I finished my study of physics a year ago!
For a lot of us, we pass a certain barrier, or mark in life, and we declare, “I’ve made it!”
And then we never work on it again.
We stop developing.
Here’s a good example of this: 33% of American adults admit they haven’t done this since high school? Any guesses???
Read a book! 1 in 3!
For many of us after school, we stop learning.
We talked in our previous series, that for many people, after the wedding bells, they stop growing in their marriage.
And for many people, after they accept Christ and become Christians they stop growing.
PREFACES & STAGE 2 INTRO
We are in the 2nd week of a really intriguing series we’re doing called Stages of Faith.
If you missed last week, this is a series about 4 stages of spiritual development that Christians can go through.
Stage 1: Infatuation. Stage 2: Direction. Stage 3: Darkness (Dark night of the soul) Stage 4: Surrender
Last week we talked about stage 1, which is the beginning of a Christian’s journey, and is often characterized by a lot of excitement, joy, and emotions
Eventually, though, our faith needs to be grounded in more truth, direction, discipline, and purpose. Just like any relationship can’t just be grounded on some early good times.
Also, last week we mentioned that these stages are fluid.
You can go back and forth from 1 to 2, to 2 to 1, but never from 1 to 4,
They are also cumulative.
So, you don’t just leave behind stage 1, you build on it, and you take parts of it with you.
So you don’t leave behind that deep emotional love you had for God in the beginning, you bring it with you and add to it.
The stages also do not have a whole lot to do with age.
While it does sometimes just take time for God to move you along, and for us to move with Him, “Time does not guarantee movement.”
You could be 75 and in stage 1
So today, we want to look at Stage 2 of Christian development / maturation.
What does it look like to move beyond the years where you were just pumped up about God because you had an emotional experience w/ Him?
How do you start to get grounded for the long haul?
Well, stage 2 is generally characterized by a few things.
Stage 2 is a time of learning, belonging, , purpose, service, and direction.
It’s when you move into a stage of faith where your faith becomes active. Daily. You’re connecting with God…everyday.
Growing in Him. Learning about him. Connecting with other Christians.
Which is different than stage 1, which typically is more of coming to church once a week and having an emotional check-in with God.
Let me just start this stage off with a key question for you to ask yourself:
Are you making progress in your Christian faith? Are you stuck? Could you legitimately say that you are actually growing in your walk w/ God right now?
Because it will take growth to move from stage 1 to 2, and stage 2 is called the “DIRECTION” stage because what gives us DIRECTION in life is our rapid growth.
I want to focus on 4 ways we see direction this morning. 4 ways that we can tangibly see that people have developed an active faith that looks a lot more like stage 2 than stage 1.
And here’s what I mean by DIRECTION:
See, in the Stage 1, it’s mostly just about us (and God).
God moved in our lives, and we’re talking to Him on our own, and he’s changing OUR hearts, changing OUR actions, changing OUR lives.
But in stage 2, you start to get DIRECTION for what God wants YOU to do…to change other people’s lives…not just your own.
This is being changed by God TO….Change the World.
Not just to make your life better.
And it’s one of the ways to see, is someone in stage 1 or 2.
Which way are they directed? Are they focused on just the inward? Or turned outward??
We’re really big on our vision of our church here at Renovation. We talk about it often, it drives what we do…we even ask our volunteers to memorize it.
A few months ago, we decided that we want to make our vision even more concrete and understandable, so we came up with a diagram for “What would it look like, if people we’re living out our vision??”
Now, before we look at this…let me say…this is not a rubric for what a fully mature Christian looks like.
If it was, we would be talking about this in stage 4.
BUT…it is a great model for what does a Christian look like who is living out a vision.
What does a Christian look like who has an active faith? Who has direction outside of himself or herself to serve God and other people?
This is James 2: Faith without works is dead. It’s not a real faith. And real faith…Christian maturation has to turn into action outside of yourself.
So, we created an acronym called the LOVE diagram. And it’s a diagram that essentially says, “If people are living out vision, if they have direction/purpose, we should see THIS happening in their lives:”
Now, maybe this sounds remotely familiar because we actually put it in the bulletin every single week.
So, go ahead, pick up your bulletins……..and let’s look at this.
Because I think this is a phenomenal rubric, or guide, for us to look at and see what an active life of faith looks like
The first descriptor of a stage 2 active Christian with direction is a person who is “L” - linked together with other Christians.
This is different than Stage 1.
In the beginning of our walks, it’s just about us and God.
But in stage 2, we are seeking out other Christians. Seeking advice. Seeking wisdom. Seeking support. Seeking knowledge.
And when people make this step, they don’t regret it.
It’s so amazing to be with people who understand us and are on the same track.
It’s powerful to be with people who love & accept us. They show us God’s love even when we fail miserably.
And this is what we see as a Christian model in the early church in the book of Acts.
(Acts 2:42) – NIV
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
(Acts 2:46) – NIV
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
And we talk about this A LOT as a church, but this is the next step of Christian maturity.
It seems like an easy one, but it’s not.
That’s why, in America, only 20% of Christians are involved in any type of small group outside of Sunday morning.
At Renovation, it’s over 80%.
And we talk about it a lot…and I realize that it’s even maybe annoying to some of you.
But my job is not to avoid being annoying or challenging, my job is to describe to you what the next steps of your walk in Christ look like.
To describe to you…what the church in the Bible ACTUALLY looks like.
If this is you…if you’re missing this part…if it’s an aspect of moving to the next stage in your walk w/ Christ…take a leap, stop by the table, and sign-up for 1 of our 4 house groups today!
OWN YOUR FAITH
The next part of the rubric is “O – OWN YOUR FAITH.”
If someone is going to live out a vision of DIRECTION. If someone is going to have an active faith, it must move beyond just getting fed by other people.
This is why Paul says, multiple times, you are INFANTS in Stage 1.
In Ephesians while talking about a community of faith helping each other mature, Paul writes:
(Ephesians 4:13-14) - NEW LIVING TRANSLATION
This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be immature like children (explain). We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
Infants need someone else to feed them. This is Stage 1 Christianity. And in Stage 1, that’s a-ok. You are completely reliant on someone else.
But in Stage 2, it’s about you owning your own faith.
And as Ephesians just said, in maturity, we have to start to feed ourselves w/ truth to…not just be tossed back and forth by new teachers
It’s about growing up, to toddler stage, breaking into the cupboards, and feeding yourself.
Even if it’s just overloading on Oreos at first.
We’re called to be responsible for our own Christian development. Another key verse for Renovation
(1 Timothy 4:7) - NIV
Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
If you’re going to move into stage 2, you have to put your roots down. You have to grow in your knowledge of God and His Word.
And no one can survive on one meal a week from Sunday morning.
You have to feed yourself on God’s word. Daily.
So you can grow in God. So you can increase your faith. So you can grow in love. So when YOU are challenged, you have more to stand on than just an emotional experience from your past!
If you’re pumped to make some steps forward: Here are a couple of tips!
Start with getting a Bible. If you don’t have a Bible, we would love for you to take the one under your chair home w/ you today.
But where do you even read in the Bible?
If you need a plan to get started, we have a couple of guides at the table you can use:
I created a 100 chapters in 100 days, which is a great overview of all of the Bible. (Put on Screen)
Or, if you’re looking at starting w/ the easiest books first, you can pick up a Bible pyramid that orders the Bible starting from the easiest book. (Put on Screen)
Some of it just comes down to what I just said: You are called to be responsible for your own Christian development. And what will you do about it?
God has given you this great gift of life. What will you do?
It makes me think of this old story: There were once a group of tourists that came to an old village. One of the tourists asked an old man if any great men were born in this small village.
He replied, “No. Only babies.”
And that’s the truth. God has given you life. A new birth. Born again. What will you do with it?
The next part of the diagram is “V - Volunteer.”
Which is another hallmark of finding DIRECTION outside of ourselves in our Christian walk.
When we progress to the next stage, we realize that, “Oh my. This is about way more than me! I HAVE to help other people learn more about Jesus.”
“And even if I’m not a teacher, I can help set-up so other people can teach. And even if I’m not good with kids, I can greet at the door, so new people hearing about God feel welcome.”
When we mature, we can’t help but want to serve.
It’s one of the most natural extensions of Christian growth and development
In fact, the Bible says in multiple places that God has given each of us spiritual gifts, NOT FOR OURSELVES, but for serving others.
After a listing of spiritual gifts in Ephesians, Paul writes, that the purpose of the gifts are:
(Ephesians 4:12) - NIV
to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up
And if you haven’t started to turn your faith outward yet, to serve OTHERS…it’s as simple as going to the bottom of your bulletin and picking a ministry to serve w. It’s pretty simple. Most of them are just once a month even.
The last part of our rubric for a life that’s marked by direction, or a life that’s living out vision…in stage 2…is Evangelize.
It sounds like a swear word to some people, but it’s simply sharing Good News.
It’s sharing, this is what God did more me, and I don’t’ want to keep this inside. God is real and he sent Jesus to die for you!
Sometimes it’s just as simple as inviting someone to church, and other times it’s having a conversation with someone about who Jesus is
But lots of times, we never get to this. We get stuck. We don’t show growth.
It reminds me of sharks. J
There are a few types of sharks that if you put them in an aquarium in their infancy, they actually won’t grow any bigger than the aquarium.
They will stop growing.
Certain sharks, like the iridescent shark, will only grow to 6 to 12 inches in an aquarium, even though they’re supposed to grow to 6 feet.
But if you were to turn them loose in the ocean, they would grow to their full potential.
And one of the reasons, I think so many Christians stop growing through the stages is they’re afraid of the ocean.
They get stuck in their Christian aquariums…where it’s nice and safe…and comfy.
But if you want to see real growth. Continual growth, yes, even evangelism, is one of the marks of growth.
It’s the complete opposite of “Stuck in Stage 1 Thinking.”
“Stuck in Stage 1 Thinking” says “God help ME grow.”
Stage 2 thinking says, “I want to be CHANGED TO CHANGE!”
And if you want to see that growth, start taking some leaps of faith.
In boldness. In who you talk to. In what you talk to as you speak with your friends, family, your coworkers.
Start w/ just inviting someone to church.
Start there. Move forward.
But get out of the aquarium, and take a risk, and God will not only protect you, but help you GROW.
And I hope that the LOVE diagram in your bulletins serves as a good rubric for you.
Have you stepped into an ACTIVE Stage 2 faith yet?
And remember, if you’re just getting started in this Jesus thing…that’s OKAY!
It’s not bad to be in stage 1. NO stage is bad!
It only can become a negative thing, if it’s been years and years…and you’re stuck. You’re not growing…at ALL anymore.
And we talked last week for a little bit about what “stuck at Stage 1” could look like if you’ve been in stage 1 for a few years and your growth has stalled.
So, if you’re stuck at stage 1, I hope these have been great ideas for you to get growing again.
But for some of you, you’re in stage 2…but you’re stuck THERE!
Out of the 4 stages, my guess would be that there are more American Christians stuck at Stage 2 than any other stage (with Stage 1 maybe being a close 2nd)
But how do you know if you’re stuck at Stage 2???
Well, for one, come back next week as we paint the picture for Stage 3 J
But let me share some examples of what “stuck at Stage 2” looks like.
And it’s an exceptionally deceiving stage to be stuck at because so many of the things you are doing, on the outside, look like great things!!
AND…because you’re doing all of the “THINGS” that a mature Christian does, and by golly they’re the RIGHT thing to do, we tend to think that’s the end.
But we’ve still got 2 more stages to go.
“Eventually, what needs to happen, is our motivation for why we do what we do, why we live how we live, will need a major facelift.
STUCK AT STAGE 2
One of the trademarks of “Stuck at Stage 2” is a high amount of judgementalism
Where, this would not be the case in Stage 4.
IN stage 2, things tend to be a little more black and white. (I found truth. I know how to live it. I KNOW this is right. You’re wrong.)
In stage 2, DOUBT seems to begin to disappear, but will make a scary resurgence in Stage 3.
But while that doubt disappears for a while, we tend to make a lot of categories:
We’re right, they’re wrong. We’re good, they’re bad. We’re holy, they’re sinners. We’re good Christians, they’re not.
You tend to see a lot of “We against Them” thinking when people are STUCK in Stage 2 (not necessarily all of stage 2…but when people get STUCK)
This is where you see a lot of fundamentalist groups born. Just protesting everything that is wrong!
And they might even be right about their position, but they don’t yet have the LOVE that you would see in stage 4 maturity.
You sometimes see this in early Christians who are progressing rapidly in their faith.
I struggled with this. I was more concerned about proving my non-Christians friends wrong than I was loving them
My other Christian friend down the hall in my freshmen year dorm (who had been a Christian longer than I had), was the guy helping clean up the drunk kid’s vomit on his shirt when they came home….
And while I would have none of that, I was always ready for a healthy debate.
I was learning, and growing, but didn’t have the love yet
Do you know one of the main ways we see a lot of these “Stuck at Stage 2” characteristics being played out in America?
Christian writers and sociologists call them “The Switchers.”
And here’s what happens: We join a group (usually a church) that looks very much alive and ready to meet our needs or beliefs as we have come to recognize them (in stage 2).
So, we join, we participate, and we are active in the group for a time. But then, gradually we come to realize that the group is not exactly what we had been looking for. They’re not COMPLETELY right. We grow disillusioned with it
Switchers, often try initially to make changes or voice our difference, but when that doesn’t work, we leave. We switch.
And this is one of the reasons I know that so many American Christians are stuck in stage 2. We have a really low ability to live with the imperfection of other Christians and our churches. (which looks VERY diff in stage 4)
This is not a perfect church. This is a church led by a bunch of fallible, broken, and messed up humans. We are not God.
And there are going to be decisions, stances, and things we do that you don’t like. You will never agree with 100% of what we teach or do.
But, because so many of us, and keep in mind, I’m saying this from the perspective of a church that is GROWING not declining and pleading for people, so many of us find out a couple of things we don’t like, or ONE message we disagree with…and we switch. NEW CHURCH!
I have a church planting friend, who says they now look at their church as almost a college ministry…they will serve people for 2 years…and then, they will inevitably leave…but, new people will come in (usually from other churches)…but then they’ll leave in 2 years.
And what happens with Switchers, is that they are never really moving ON in their journey, just moving AROUND.
And that movement gives a “false sense of progress,” but it’s not real.
Stuck In Stage 2, is sometimes marked by an overzealousness that doesn’t have the love and maturity to communicate it.
You can see this in other areas:
For instance, while I’m great at exercising (I’m run over 10 miles a week), but it’s well documented that I eat at Culver’s too often.
And sometimes I run across people who LIVE by EATING Healthy.
The food nazi’s. You know who I’m talking about.
And I can tell the difference between someone who really cares about my well being, and someone who’s just trying to cram gluten-free and organic products down my throat.
And I CAN guarantee you that your friends and family can tell the difference between people who really care about their spiritual lives and people who are just trying to CRAM a newfound truth down their throats.
Maturity allows us to communicate TRUTH (it IS the truth) in Love.
Sometimes Stuck In Stage 2 can be characterized by burn-out.
While serving/volunteering is a hallmark of growth, our reasons for doing it, are the next hallmark of growth.
It’s like what Jesus says to Martha who’s so busy making the preparations that she’s ignoring Jesus (her motivations aren’t right yet), while her sister Mary is sitting at His feet:
(Luke 10: 41-42) - NIV
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Sometimes people in stage 2 get stuck in their heads.
And they get so focused on studying the Bible, that they neglect the heart.
And again, it LOOKS as if they are a very active Christian, but they get stuck.
One of my lower points in my faith was when I was in seminary.
I was learning theology like no one’s business, but my faith was drying up.
Once you get into Stage 2 (you’re doing those things in the LOVE diagram), every Christian has to continually ask themselves (this is how we mature to the next phases):
Am I becoming overly performance driven? Am I doing the right things, but I’ve regressed back into trying to earn God’s love?
And…Am I becoming like the Pharisees? Have I learned all the right truth, but am not growing in true union and intimacy with God?
So there are different courses for many of us this morning.
For some of you, it’s time to take steps from Stage 1 to Stage 2.
To walk into the productive life of faith. With direction, learning, belonging, service.
Otherwise your faith will fizzle out.
But for others of you, that have been around this thing for a while…and maybe you’re stuck.
Stuck in the middle stages of Christian development.
Informed…but maybe a little to judgemental
Involved…but maybe a little too prideful
Know ALL the right ideas…but lack the love to accept the people who don’t….and the humility to accept that…wait, you probably don’t probably know all the right ideas either
If that’s you…hang with me in this series. Let me paint the next phase for you next week. It might be something you’ve never even seen before.
But hear me, if you want to keep growing…this next jump is the hardest and the least pleasant.
See, all of these things you’ve now been doing (which ARE good), they tend to build up our pride (learning truth, getting involved, volunteering), and often the only way God can bring us to the next stage….is to knock us off the pedestal of our own pride.
And only then, is it possible for us to enter into a faith that is more based on surrender than it is on us being right.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.