Emotional Maturity and Discipleship

Here’s the question: Can you be spiritually mature and emotionally immature? Clearly a child cannot be spiritually mature. He or she doesn’t possess the faculties for a full faith. They can be what they should be at any particular age, but this is not maturity.

So the next question that follows immediately is what about adults? How far can they go in spiritual maturity is they are locked in infantile and childish emotional patterns, perhaps most of which they are unaware but of which most of those around them are more than aware? The answer is immediately suggested – not very far.

Peter Scazzero has done more than any other pastoral leader to confront this question. His platform building book is The Emotionally Healthy Church. He recommends that churches take seriously attention to the emotional quotient of their flock and develop strategies for integrating this aspect of healthy spirituality. Preaching doctrinal content alone doesn’t do it. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in 1 Cor 13.

Scazzero’s proposal is not altogether applauded, for it introduces psychological tools for assessment in the discipling process, such as the enneagram, and integrates contemplative prayer practices most often associated with Roman Catholicism and the mystics. Yet we all know, or should, that spiritual growth requires attention to the movements of the soul as well as movements of the Holy Spirit. The former we do not do so well. It is by definition illusive, vague and “squishy.” It easily slips out of the fingers as it shape shifts.

While Celebrate Recovery is not as identifiably psychological, it clearly addresses emotional patterns and triggers that do not yield so readily to dogma and cognition. Its strategy is not advertised as a church growth mechanism, such as Scazzero’s work is, the pattern is the same. The travel inward must be as real as the travel outward and upward.

Here is an interview of Peter Scazzero by Luke Norworthy that is worth the listen. Scazzero comes out of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which I do, as well. Much of what he asserts finds a home within IV’s discipleship models, which I find to be more honest, holistic, with more realistic expectations concerning Christian growth.

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