Pathways to spiritual growth
As long as there have been people, there have been ways to engage in spiritual growth. Adam walked in the garden with God in cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). Believers through the centuries have seen visions, heard the voice of God, studied the scriptures, asked God for signs, stepped forward in obedience, fasted and prayed for his involvement. We can learn many ways of engaging with God from those who have gone before us.
These practices are often referred to as spiritual disciplines—ways to engage with God. Yet depending on the culture we come from, we may only know of one way to experience God. For instance, in places where ecstatic expression is common, believers to whom that doesn’t come naturally may wonder what is wrong with them. Likewise, in places where reading and theological study are highly valued, those with more action-based inclinations may feel decidedly unspiritual.
Finding the right path
Most mountains offer many trails to the top based on the capacity of the hiker. An expert hiker may enjoy the challenge of a steeper, more rocky path. The moderate hiker may choose a path that offers some challenge but is still well maintained. The novice hiker will need a well groomed path that offers frequent stops. All three hikers will gain elevation and enjoy the mountain.
The truth of the matter is that there are many, many different ways to engage with God and grow spiritually. So if your client is struggling in this area, you might encourage them to explore the disciplines more broadly instead of sticking with what they already know—or what they have been taught is the “right” way to worship God.
Is there a best path?
People have experienced God in many different ways through the centuries; there is no single correct method. Encourage your client to experiment with new ones and see what avenues they open up. Challenge them to explore ways that have worked for others and try some of them. You may be surprised at the effects of something like fasting or centered prayer, which are seldom exercised in some parts of the world yet widely found to be helpful in others.
Best practices for spiritual growth
Clients can also benefit from journeying alongside others in spiritual growth, sharing their experiences and practices with peers. A group of just three or four people is about the right size for this type of more intense personal engagement. In this smaller setting, people can be more open to learning from others as well as to sharing their own spiritual experiences. Although some practices are done alone, spiritual growth overall is a communal activity.
Above all, encourage your clients to remember humility. They will need to be honest and transparent about their failures, doubts, and mistakes. Everyone has those, and as they are honest they will find they are not alone. Pride and pretense are the death of spiritual formation.
5 ways coaches can help others grow spiritually
- Learn about and explore the spiritual disciplines.
- Branch out and try a variety of new ones.
- Journey alongside others.
- Be open and transparent about your spiritual formation.
- Remember humility.
All of us who call ourselves disciples of Jesus must continue to walk in the Holy Spirit, relying on him, and continuing in our personal spiritual formation. Spiritual formation is the foundation of how we live out the Christian faith. And spiritual maturity is not something that is accomplished once and for all—it’s ongoing no matter how long we have been followers of Jesus. Although we may have a strong foundation of discipleship, we’ll need to continue to abide in Jesus if we want to be able to serve him faithfully.
Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:4-5