Six Stages of Spiritual Growth

by Greg Wiens

We’re in the process of developing an instrument that helps people determine their current spiritual growth stage. Here are the working definitions for each stage under consideration.

Stage 1—EXPLORE: The Stage of Discovering Faith

  • Full Definition: Individuals in this stage of faith development explore who God is and seek to make sense of how he relates to them. There is an awareness that there is more to life than what they are currently experiencing. But they are not yet entirely sure how to attain this. In this stage, there is a quest for greater meaning in life and a focus on finding answers. God is seen mainly as a powerful force in nature or life. The emphasis is often on works and serving others because there is a lack of complete reliance on grace through faith for their own righteousness. They are seeking to grow themselves.
  • Brief Definition: General awareness of something more to life but not fully committed to a life of faith in Christ.

Stage 2—BUILD: The Stage of Developing Faith

  • Full Definition: Individuals in this stage of faith development are learning about God and are beginning to experience his presence. There is an awareness that one grows and learns best in community with others. Their learning comes from others, studying, and opening to God. Their commitment to Christ is integrated through their learning and leaning into a body of beliefs. God is seen as their Savior and Lord in which they are confident they will find answers to life’s questions. They know they have a long way to grow and are on the journey.
  • Brief Definition: General awareness of the need to grow in their faith in Christ and taking these steps toward maturity.

Stage 3—OWN: The Stage of Displaying Faith

  • Full Definition: Individuals in this stage of faith development develop intimacy and effective ministry. There is an awareness that they grow from the inside out and find their outward expressions of faith through their gifts and abilities. Their learning comes from authentically relating to scripture, interacting with others in their faith community, and serving others. Their relationship with God provides hope and is their basis for life and ministry. They take personal responsibility for serving others and for their own growth.
  • Brief Definition: General awareness of the need for deep intimacy through Christ and ministry to others through their gifts

Stage 4—WILDERNESS: The Stage of Detangling Faith

  • Full Definition: Individuals in this stage of faith development wrestle with trusting in God when what was hoped for doesn’t become a reality. There is an awareness that deep faith is forged through times of struggle. Developing a resilient faith requires genuinely walking through dark times and learning to trust God despite circumstances, not because of them. Isolation tends to accompany this stage, and programmatic approaches to growth and ministry seem to fall short of expectations. It becomes clear that faith is more nuanced than once believed. Their learning comes from honestly facing their doubts and finding freedom in the next stage.  
  • Brief Definition: General awareness of the need to rethink spiritual maturity as more nuanced than once thought and struggle with deeper issues of faith.

Stage 5—THRIVE: The Stage of Delighting in our Faith

  • Full Definition: Individuals in this stage of faith development experience a depth and quality of relationship with their Lord that is unwavering. This resoluteness is typically the fruit of decades of growth and struggle. They experience growth through lifelong habits of spiritual disciplines. Their sense of God, self, ministry, and all of life converge to create a deep sense of purpose. Faith is not an internal belief but a way of living manifested in relationships inside and outside the church. Their life demonstrates healthy abiding in and an outpouring of the Spirit. Their heart breaks for the things that break the heart of God.
  • Brief Definition: General awareness that their life is a gift of God which they live daily in gratitude and service to Him.

Stage 6—BEYOND: The Stage of Detaching in Faith

  • Full Definition: Individuals in this stage of faith development sense their earthly life is just a preparation for all of eternity. They exhibit a quiet confidence with their Savior, who continually draws their attention toward heaven. There is a renewed openness to the things of God. They seek to be sensitive to work only where they see their Lord working. They have little need for programs or productions. Life is experienced in intimacy with God and others by simply being who they were created and crafted to be. All their life has prepared them for what is to follow, yet they are content to labor where they find themselves. They are less and less engaged in things of this world, that is, detaching from this world to as they prepare to enter eternity.
  • Brief Definition: General awareness that their faith has culminated in a content, confident, and a compassionate lifestyle lived simply with their Savior, Jesus.
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