“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).
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 26:41; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Romans 8:6; Ephesians 6:17-18; 2 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.