As Christian leaders our most important purpose is to be a witness and develop other believers. For years this has been done in the context of congregations, small groups like Sunday school, or other “discipleship programs.” However, many church leaders have come to the conclusion that this type of one-size-fits-all spiritual development is not always effective. This issue is even further complicated by other “first world problems,” like the advent of the mega-church and virtual campuses. Technological advances have the ability to allow believers to isolate and create even more stratified spiritual communities and that seriously impact the levels of spiritual maturity. As a response many churches, have instituted “small group” communities and developed curriculum designed to facilitate growth in an effort to create a sense of community in larger congregations. And so, the need to develop programs that facilitate growth and development in the context of authentic community has become even greater.
In “STIR: Spiritual Transformation in Relationship,” Mindy Caliguire reviews a process of Christian development in the context of an ever-changing Christian community. She emphasizes that effective spiritual development only occurs in diverse, authentic Christian community. Caliguire asserts that authentic community is facilitated and categorized by three elements: learning together, journeying together and following together.
All believers will be faced with learning the Scripture, understanding core beliefs, and learning the way to relate to God and each other. Each of these areas change as a believer develops. Caliguire asserts that learning together is an essential step of the maturation process and growth and development of the believer. This process builds a frame of understanding about the Scriptures and facilitates the ability to learn key truths from within the Scripture.
While knowing the Scripture is essential, Caliguire also says that having an understanding of core beliefs is essential to learning together in community. This is complicated because there has to be a way of diversifying based on the level of spiritual development within the community while the depth of understanding of core beliefs continues to change as a believer develops. This is not to say that the community should be divided by spiritual maturity but rather there should be an opportunity for development at all levels. The purpose of learning the basic tenants of the Christian faith are so that we can learn to effectively relate to God and each other.
The process of journeying together allows believers to experience and understand the goal of spiritual maturity. Since Christians are called into community, it is only natural that God would use our relationships with other people to help us mature spiritually. Consequently, this develops a greater reliance upon God, as we discover our inability to love well apart from Him.
When done well, the journeying process naturally aids in our ability to respectfully follow God together. Caliguire develops the idea that when God’s activity in and around a person is the primary subject of discussion, prayer and conversation, we are then able to see beyond our own perspectives, recognize God’s assignments, and stay attentive to God’s ongoing transformation in our lives.
The subject of how to create authentic relationship and spur spiritual growth will only become more pervasive as our culture becomes more diverse and as we become more reliant on technology which tends to isolate us. Caliguire’s book proposes a practical method to insure that Christians continue to work toward truly becoming the body of Christ and developing meaningful relationships in the context of authentic community.