Wednesday: Evaluating for Spiritual Growth
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“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’”(1 Sam. 16:7, NKJV).

Image © Krieg Barrie from GoodSalt.com

Previously in this study guide we have noted that any goals set by individuals or churches must be able to be evaluated. While it is relatively easy to monitor and evaluate numerical growth, it is true that there is more to church than numbers.

It’s obvious (or should be, anyway) that we don’t simply want to fill the church with people. We want to fill it with people who are growing in their relationship with Jesus, who love the Lord, and who express that love in obedience to His commandments. The last thing we want to do is what Jesus said the scribes and Pharisees did: to “ ‘travel land and sea’ ” (that is, engage in missionary efforts) to make a new convert “ ‘twice as much a son of hell as yourselves’ ” (Matt 23:15, NKJV). That strong rebuke of their “outreach efforts” shows us how important it is that we give attention to the evaluation of spiritual growth, not only of those whom we bring into the church but, even more so, of ourselves.

Read Matthew 26:411 Thessalonians 5:17Romans 8:6Ephesians 6:17-182 Timothy 2:15-16; and Psalm 1:2. What spiritual disciplines do these verses suggest are important? In what ways are all of these things crucial to our spiritual growth?

How do we, as sinners in need of divine grace ourselves, evaluate something as “intangible” as the spirituality of others? The fact is that there is no documented spirituality scale against which we can evaluate personal spirituality. It is therefore more appropriate and profitable to consider whether each believer is on a spiritual journey rather than determine at what point he or she is on that journey. Indications of a spiritual journey are the spiritual disciplines in which we become involved. The things listed in the verses above certainly are indicators, yet, we always need to be careful regarding how we judge the experience of others. At the same time, especially if we are dealing with new members, we should—in a kind and loving way—help them understand how important things such as prayer, Bible study, and obedience are to their spiritual growth.

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Wednesday: Evaluating for Spiritual Growth — 11 Comments

  1. This particular lesson on Wednesday really bothers me. It is my considered opinion that the direction this lesson is now going is all wrong. The whole idea of being fruit inspectors does more to divide a church and cause a judgmental attitude among its members than anything else I know. Besides, in all likelihood the log in our own eye is much bigger than the little splinter in someone else's eye (Mat 7:1-5).

    There certainly are times when a church will have to deal with known sin and disrupting problems but for the most part Jesus' parable on the sower and the seeds is something we should pay particular attention to.

    Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
    "but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
    26 "But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.
    27 "So the servants of the owner came and said to him,`Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'
    28 "He said to them,`An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him,`Do you want us then to go and gather them up?'
    29 "But he said,`No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
    30 `Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."'" (Matt. 13:24-30 NKJV)

    If we don't follow this teaching then we will only cause a lot of collateral damage to God's church which He is very touchy about (1 Cor 3:16-17). We are not to go around weeding God's garden - that is something that God does far better.

    If we want spiritual growth in new members first, be good role models. Second, get them involved in church activities that promote spiritual growth. Be good friends and mentor them, always looking to Jesus as the supreme example.

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  2. I understand the concern about judging others, but don't believe this is what the lesson's author is saying. Not every hurting or spiritually struggling member will cry out and say, "I'm in trouble pray for me." A loving member will be in tune with his fellow believers, will pray, encourage them, and in love let them know when he sees them headed in the wrong direction. We should let them know we're available if they need someone to talk to about their challenges. In fact, this was the tone of each of Paul's letters. He was quick to praise and encourage, but also spoke frankly about behaviors or trends that were incompatible with their walk with the Lord. So many feel disconnected and uncared for when members take to just minding their own business. Too many are falling prey to the evil one when a word of encouragement and guidance from a caring member may have given them the strength they needed to avoid yielding to some temptation. Of course, there are those who may want to appoint themselves judges and reach beyond their bounds wreaking havoc with their critical tongues, but we cannot respond by going to the extremes of apathy and disengagement. We evaluate people all the time. Judging is evaluating others without sincere love and concern, but God's love in our hearts does not allow us to turn the other way and pretend we don't see a problem. Jesus loved others by meeting their needs, but regularly concluded his encounter with them by stating, "...go and sin no more." I wished someone would have responded with the Spirit of love when they saw me headed for trouble, and called and told me they were praying for me and they were available. That's not judging that's what we're here for.

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    • Tony, you make a point that I cannot disagree with. We cannot separate ourselves from others in the church and should become good friends, able to help when needed. However, evaluating a person's spirituality is nearly impossible to do properly. For instance, I rarely attend convocations and listen to sermons in a church simply because I have hearing loss that makes it almost impossible to understand what is being said, even with hearing aids. What I do is to get on the internet and listen to sermons through that medium because I have a good set of ear phones that I can turn up the volume on and don't have problems hearing a lot of echo that I would get in a live church setting. So based on what the lesson says outwardly it would appear that I have a real spiritual problem and probably should be counseled by the pastor. It would also appear that I may even be backslidden and might be ripe for church discipline. By the way, I have had friends that had the same problem and they didn't like attending church either - for the same reasons.

      Along the same line many years ago I was encouraged to go into the colporteur ministry but knowing my track record in sales work I tended to backed off. Then when one of the supervisors made a pitch that those in the colporteur work were the real men in the work I cut it off entirely because most of those in sales work enjoy doing it and they have the talents for that work. So maybe I was nothing more than another Jonah or a John Mark but then maybe I really wasn't called into that ministry in the first place.

      What criterion of judgment must I meet in order to be seen by the church as an asset? Can a person be a good elder and give Bible studies and yet loose salvation? Does outward appearance always equate to inward spirituality? Does going into a liquor store automatically condemn a church leader (I knew one that did under doctors orders in order to save his very young daughter's life after she drank the deadly kind of alcohol)?

      But there is yet a more important reason involved in not doing too much evaluating. When we focus constantly on self or other people we automatically set ourselves up for a gradual fall. "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor 3:18 NKJV). As Ellen White commented concerning this text:

      It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature that by beholding we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence. Man will never rise higher than his standard of purity or goodness or truth. If self is his loftiest ideal, he will never attain to anything more exalted. Rather, he will constantly sink lower and lower. The grace of God alone has power to exalt man. Left to himself, his course must inevitably be downward. {GC 555.1}

      These are the things I was referencing to, not the kind benevolence we should have through being a good neighbor to our brothers and sisters in the faith. By the way, sometimes a person will not admit to having trouble even to their spouse.

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  3. Indeed most church members are preoccupied today with weeding tares in God's field, and in the process, rooting out the wheat as well. We must desist from assuming the position of judge as it is written, " do not judge for you shall also be judged". Let us be loving and selfless servants of the most high.

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  4. Well said Tony! I've never had a problem with persons pointing out my flaws but I wished they had done in love. Too often persons who express their displeasure simply just want to release the hurt or anger built up inside from something that was said or done. It's like, "someone needs to put you in your place and that person will be me." Moreover, even though persons professed to be Christians, true conversion has not taken place in their lives. This is when I repeat the Lord's words, "Father have mercy upon them for they know not what they do." We are struggling and the Lord is still working on us. Let us continue to pray and bear with one another! God is Able.

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  5. Interesting topic. in our effort to evaluate others, we sometimes push people from Church. I hope we do not end up being like the pharisees who were more right than others.

    When I was a young boy, the local church at our village would publicly 'evaluate' who should or should not take Holy Communion. They would pick a member and say this should not take the Holy Communion because they committed this or that sin. And this would be a contest by members trying to disqualify an individual. Often or not the said member would stop attending church. The question is 'did the evaluation help?'

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  6. This lesson makes me sad."Judge not; lest ye be judged." Matthew 7. When we decide to judge other people, others, like our kids, see our hypocrisy, and decide to leave the church. Why not go to a person, ask them questions as a person trying to understand where they are coming from, become their friend, and promise to help each other, especially if they are stumbling? Probably every church has members that will take this evaluation concept too far and stir up anger and division. God have mercy on us.

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  7. Brothers and sisters you have the right to feel that way after reading this part of the lesson. I think you are saying the same thing and that is what the author is trying to put across. The only problem is that we sometimes don't want to understand others before we are understood. To get a better picture of something don't forget the context of the subject. The think the author is not saying we should judge others but evaluate ourselves first and then be concerned about the spiritual advancement of the church and the members thereof. "But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’". The author used that text to show that he is not talking about judging others because no human being can see the motives of the heart. Re-read the whole lesson with much concentration and maximum attention and evaluate you and understanding, I am not saying that you judge yourself, but evaluate and see whether your understanding will still be the same. "15.Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior." Read all the Bible texts outlined in this section for a better understanding of the context. Thank you.

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    • Yes, but then how else are we to understand his question, "How do we, as sinners in need of divine grace ourselves, evaluate something as “intangible” as the spirituality of others?" along with the other statements he makes in the lesson?

      To me it makes little difference how careful the author of the lesson is in how he says what he says he is still asking us to judge others in the church and as far as I am concerned that is wrong. At this point in the lesson the evaluation process has changed course from evaluating the evangelism of the church as a whole to evaluating each other's status within the church. That in any language is judging people rather than doctrine; it's not even evaluating performance as such. He is asking us to determine everyone's fitness to do evangelism and witnessing. If Jesus applied the tests he suggests to the Samaritan woman or the demoniac neither would have been fit for the job they did.

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  8. Evaluation involves assessing a person to see where they are at, whether they have attained the desired objective, whether they are on track, how they could have done things differently. The results should be teaching tools for others to follow or to learn from. From that aspect, then yes we can evaluate others.

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    • Thanks, Sophia. I believe that was the intent of the lesson authors.

      I believe the idea is not to go around inspecting the spirituality of others. But when we study with people and "evangelize" them, we should evaluate whether or not what we are doing is having the intended result of connecting people with Jesus.

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