Disclaimer/Warning: If you are prone to take things personally and get defensive, this blog is probably not the place for you! When I write, I am simply sharing my thoughts and ideas. I do not write with certain people or congregations in mind. This site is simply an outlet for reflection. Okay, you’ve been warned!
Earlier this year, Carey Nieuwhof blogged about “5 Signs of Spiritual Maturity…That Actually Show You Lack It.“After reading the article, I found myself thinking about the various ways I discern whether or not a person truly is a spiritual giant.
As a pastor, I’m often told who the “spiritual giants” are in a given congregation or community. At every church I have served (as lay staff and under pastoral appointment), I have been told as soon as I get my feet on the ground, “You should meet ______. He/she is a real ‘spiritual giant’.” Referring to one as a “spiritual giant” is another way of talking about spiritual maturity.
Too often, I believe we define “spiritual giants” as those who have a great deal of Biblical knowledge. These are folks who study the Scriptures, read books about the Bible, attend multiple Bible studies throughout the week, pray before every meal, and probably lead a small group of some sort.
Sometimes we define a “spiritual giant” as the person who gives a great deal of time to a particular ministry or mission of the church or within the community. This person doesn’t necessarily attend a lot of church events or small groups. He/she doesn’t necessarily have a lot of Biblical knowledge, but they are actively involved in missional service.
I’m not necessarily opposed to these definitions of “spiritual giants”. I think each contain glimpses of what it means to be a “spiritual giant”.
Throughout my years in ministry, I have found a few ways to discover whether an individual is spiritually mature. Here is my three-step process:
1. Do they live out their commitment to the church? In the United Methodist church, our members commit to upholding our church through their prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. So, a “spiritual giant” will be committed to these practices.
2. For a quick discovery of whether or not one is a “spiritual giant”, one can examine the persons financial giving. I know, I know…pastors are all about the money, aren’t they? But, let’s be honest…how we use our finances says a lot about our commitment to Jesus and the church. I’m pretty sure Jesus said something about our hearts and our treasures, but I could be wrong.
There are many times I’ve encountered “spiritual giants” who know a lot about the Bible. However, their giving habits would indicate that they don’t really understand much about the Bible. Sometimes our giving habits indicated that we are not as committed to the church as we believe ourselves to be.
3. Do they practice Biblical conflict resolution? In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus gives us a pretty solid example of how to practice Biblical conflict resolution. So, when it comes to “spiritual giants”, do they talk to the person they disagree with or do they talk about the person they disagree with? Do they follow Jesus’ pattern for handling conflict?
In previous appointments, I served as an associate pastor. Associate pastors, much like pastors spouses, are often “used” to “get at” the senior pastor. People lobby their complaints about or suggestions for the pastor to the associate pastor (or pastors spouse) in hopes that the associate (or pastors spouse) will relay the message.
When people would come to me with complaints or “constructive criticism” for the senior pastor, I would stop them and ask this simple question, “Have you talked about this with the senior pastor?”
9 times out of ten the answer was “no”. When they would answer “no”, I would tell them that before I would entertain any more of their conversation, they would need to talk with the senior pastor. More often than not, the person would not go talk to the senior pastor and stopped coming to me with their “helpful insights”.
Unfortunately, they would often find another person to entertain their complaints and criticism.
If the person had talked with the senior pastor and the issue had not been resolved, I would invite them to set up an appointment for the three of us to meet together. In all of my years as an associate pastor, I think it actually made it this point one time.
Many times, if the person had talked with the senior pastor, the issue truly had been resolved. They just didn’t like the outcome. So, they would come to the associate pastor in hopes to sway the pastor to see things their way. If a resolution had been reached, I would take the simple step of supporting the senior pastor!
So, an easy way for you to determine whether or not you are a “spiritual giant” is to ask this question: When someone begins to complain about another, do I entertain the conversation or do I stop them and ask them if they have talked with the offending party?
That’s a great way to find out if someone truly is a “spiritual giant”. If a person is unwilling to practice Biblical conflict resolution, they probably aren’t the spiritual giant we believe them to be (or that they desire us to believe). If we start, spread, or entertain gossip, we probably aren’t “spiritual giants”.
My guess is that a “spiritual giant” probably doesn’t have much time to gossip or entertain gossip because they are too busy getting the plank out of their own eye!
Now, I want to warn those who desire to be spiritually mature (spiritual giants)! When you begin to practice Biblical conflict resolution, there is a good chance you will be referred to as a troublemaker.
When I think about spiritual giants, I think back to a gentleman who was often labeled as a troublemaker. He drove people crazy! And, I think it’s because he took the Bible and the words of Jesus seriously. If he had a problem, a suggestion, or a question, he actually went directly to the other person. Crazy, right? He didn’t beat around the bush. He didn’t gossip. He didn’t get others worked up. He just addressed issues head on. And, I loved him for it!
The real troublemakers are those “spiritual giants” who start, entertain, and spread gossip. The real troublemakers are those who fail to practice Biblical conflict resolution.
So, where are you? Are you spiritually mature? Are you giving the impression of being spiritually mature? Are you striving towards spiritual maturity?