|The Barnabas Ministry
The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith
The Critical Journey examines the distinct
phases of spiritual life. Though the authors readily
admit that it is impossible to dogmatically define something as
and unique as the individual spiritual walks of people, by examining
common traits and experiences they have identified six distinct
in people's spiritual lives:
Understanding The Stages
Of course, understanding stages means understanding people and their needs as they grow through various stages of their spiritual lives. This has profound implications in a number of areas of special interest.People at the discipleship stage (stage 2), secure with what is right for them and with a strong sense of belonging, may think that people who appear to be questioning or even losing their faith on the journey inward (stage 4) are not strong enough, not faithful enough, not willing enough, or just plain not Christian. Because of their present security in the journey, they find it difficult to comprehend the questioning on the inward journey as another step along the way. When they too fall into the throes of confusion, dissatisfaction or uncertainty, they may experience other people's questioning of their behavior and only then understand how they were viewing people like themselves earlier. Those on the inward journey (stage 4), on the other hand, can look judgmentally on those people in the discipleship stage (stage 2), who seem to have such ready answers, rather than appreciating them and remembering the times when they too felt secure. That comes not from misunderstanding stage 2 as much as from the general insecurity of being at stage 4. (p.12-13)
At this time, the pat answers and familiar ways are no
longer good enough for their faith to be solid. There are honest
questions, and these must be addressed. This
process of seeking God and surrendering to his will during these times
of soul-searching has marked the lives of great men of God since
After going through these more "inward" stages, people again desire to meet the needs of others, but now with a more mature faith and more harmonious world view.
Older Christians will find support and validation for the need to address honest questions and deep issues they need to resolve before feeling adequate in their faith. This is in direct contrast to some (usually those not as far along the journey!) that might advise them to "just repent" or be more "fired-up."
The Journey Inward, "The Wall"
One of the
benefits of The Critical Journey is that is removes some of
stigma and mystery from this difficult time of life, validating it as
noble and necessary.
The Wall invites us to
integrate our spiritual selves with the rest of us. And that involves
facing our own and others' demons. We must face that which we fear the
most, and that is why it is so unsavory, and why so many people only
enter the Wall under duress. At the Wall we are usually asked to
embrace our illnesses and addictions and to relinquish that which we've
clung to or which we worship. We encounter oceans of unresolved grief
covered by anger, bitterness, martyrdom, hurt or fear. The Wall is a
place where we confront the desire to deny or disguise the inner self
and begin to mentor the truth self- the self God intended for us- and
recognize the meaning of our shadow.
The two qualities that are
most helpful to have in the Wall, although difficult to ask for, are
clarity to know the truth or the call in the Wall, and the courage to
face the truth and to move forward. The Wall is the work of the heart
but it is not for the weak of heart. That is why we have so many clever
ways to avoid it. (p. 233)
Critical Journey and Churches
However, many churches don't recognize these stages.
They may take a particular stage and make it the standard. Those not in
this stage can be made to feel unspiritual, unfaithful or strange. When
members reach stages outside of where a church is comfortable (and it
will come), the church may expect members to conform to the more
preferred stage(s), lest they be
considered "lukewarm" or "backslidden." Members may be shamed or
rebellious, heretical, unsubmissive, a poor disciple,
unteachable, having a bad
attitude, etc. Clearly, a church that does not recognize these stages
and educate its members about them is doing them a disservice,
guaranteeing it cannot meet their needs in these areas.
Critical Journey and "Revolutionaries"
The church is generally best
at working with people in stages 1 through 3 so the fact that the
highest number of people is in stage 2 fits with how the church sees
itself. It does raise some issues though as to what and how the church
relates to people beyond stage 3. So many people leave the church when
they experience stage 4 or the Wall, since there are few resources or
programs available for them, and they feel estranged when the faith
they held dear does not work for them anymore. Their seeming collapse
of faith may also be uncomfortable for those in ministry who are
focused on more faith strengthening programs, like Bible Study and
discipling (p. 258).
In all, The Critical
is a powerful and helpful discussion of the stages of spiritual growth.
Everybody with a spiritual life needs to know about these stages--
especially those who are feeling stifled in their present experience
because they, their church and/or their other spiritual relationships
don't understand their current stage. I heartily
recommend The Critical
(For more on this topic, see the Barnabas Ministry
article "The Spiritual Life Cycle.")
All rights reserved.
Comment via email