By Cameron Silsbee
Begin with prayer
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Take a moment to sit in silence in the presence of Jesus and each other. Have one person read Isaiah 6v1-8 over the group and then pray to ask the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief the teaching and previous Practice
- Which Practice did you choose to do last week (reworking your Rule of Life, focusing on your physicality, or the time audit)? How did it go?
- When you began following Jesus, how did you conceptualize discipleship to Jesus? Did you think of discipleship to him as a journey, a way of life, or a narrow path?
- How does the idea of stage theory strike you? Do you appreciate having a road map? Does it feel restrictive or cookie-cutter in any way?
Read this overview
Spiritual formation writers often use an ancient concept called Stage Theory. In Stage Theory, a person’s spirituality grows in stages toward maturity. There have been many different ways the theory has been described, but the point isn’t to simplify Christian spirituality into one comprehensive black-and-white paradigm, the journey of discipleship is too complex for that. The point is to use stage theory as a helpful tool for understanding where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going in our journey following Jesus. In this way, we can have a type of map and guide for navigating discipleship over our entire lives.
Do this practice right now
The stage theory called the Three Ways has been influential and helpful in understanding Christian spiritual development for hundreds of years. Take a few minutes to look at and read through this chart describing the Three Ways. Below is a brief explanation of some of the categories in this chart.
Note: The categories of Sin, Prayer, and Love can be a bit confusing for us. Read through these explanations of the categories before answering the following questions:
- Gross sins include sexual immorality, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, envy, drunkenness, etc. It is the unrestrained sin before following Jesus.
- Conscious sins include sins that are socially acceptable but conflict with the way of Jesus (e.g. materialism, self-centeredness, lust, political/ideological idolatry, hatred of enemies, etc.)
- Unconscious sins include sins that are more internal than external, such as patterns of thinking and feeling, motivations, along with sins of omission (e.g. while you don’t hate your enemy, you don’t love them as Jesus commanded)
- Trust structures are the things that shape what motivates us to act and feel the way we do – areas of our lives where we do not rely on God, but our self for our well-being.
- Discursive, Kataphatic is prayer that is centered around speaking to God, list and request oriented.
- Contemplative, Apophatic is prayer that is about being in God’s presence, a wordless interaction with the Spirit that speaks as much to your soul as to your conscious awareness.
- I in them, and you in me is akin to Brother Lawerance’s practicing the presence of God. It’s a constant awareness of and ability to interact with God at any given moment.
- Love of God for self is the motivation to love God for the good things he gives us (e.g. favor, blessing, positive feelings, etc.)
- Love of God for God is the motivation to love God for who he is.
- Love of self for God is the motivation to love yourself as you love God and understand/experience his vast love for you.
Talk through the following questions:
- Is there anything noteworthy or surprising to you about how the Three Ways conceptualizes Christian maturity?
- When you think about your life, which overall stage seems to resonate with where you’re at?
- In what areas of your life does it seem Jesus is growing in maturity (e.g. specific attitudes, motivations, actions, relationships, habits, etc.)
- In what areas of your life have you felt stagnant or stuck?
Talk about this week’s Practice
For this week’s Practice, spend at least 30 minutes reflecting on your maturity as a follower of Jesus. Here are a few ideas and actionable steps you might consider in this process:
- Inviting God’s Spirit to speak to you about areas he’s growing you in. Journal what you feel he says to you.
- Set up a time to talk with a close friend, spouse, mentor, etc. who could speak to you about how you’ve grown spiritually and where God might be inviting you to grow.
- Make an appointment with a counselor to explore some of the aspects of your life and story that may be hindering your spiritual maturity.
- Look over each category of your Rule of Life to see if there are any areas of complacency or stagnation that could benefit from an adjustment to your Rule of Life.
Be prepared to discuss with your Community next week how you spent your time reflecting on your spiritual maturity.
Close in prayer
End in prayer be having one person read the Nicene Creed over the group.
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son], who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.
I believe in one, holy and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.