I don’t feel like I’m growing spiritually. It feels like I’m stagnating in my faith. In June 2022, these were the thoughts that surfaced within me. There were many reasons for this.

Part of me felt that cell time was overly focused on nurturing ourselves through things like Bible study, at the expense of bringing the message outside the church walls. I sometimes felt these discussions didn’t shed any new light; I didn’t seem to learn anything new.

Perhaps the most painful thing to see was cell members sitting on the fringes; it seemed we didn’t really care about what was going on in each other’s lives. As adulthood began, life had gotten in the way of God.

In September 2022, I shared these thoughts with my leaders in a document. I highlighted how I felt we were a “holy huddle”, how we were not evangelising, and how we were not catching those who were falling through the cracks. 

And in the discussions that followed, we made commitments to work harder at connecting with each other and to spend more time with God.

But would that be enough?

What if it’s not about you?

During a church camp in 2022, we were tasked to walk in a park silently, talking to no one but God. To be honest, I feel I don’t often hear from God. That’s why I didn’t expect anything.

But I felt God speak to me this time: “What if ‘growth’ isn’t about you but about others?”

That made for a profound shift in my thinking. As someone who’s read thousands of self-help books, I was guilty.

Church had become another personal development community to me.

I had become a passive consumer, searching for the next best pastor, a “better” community who could spark a different way of seeing God and more exciting activities in church.

I had fallen into the trap of blaming everyone but myself.

So, having realised that change has to start with me, I started thinking about how I could contribute rather than consume.

It started with small things like leading Word discussions in cell, bringing friends to cell and organising a New Year soccer event to reach youths in the community.

Change was small — but it began to happen.

Whose responsibility is it for spiritual growth?

Yes, it is the church’s responsibility to ensure that what is fed from the pulpit is good. But I confess: there were many times when speakers gave their best, and I still fell asleep.

It is also common to think it is solely the cell leader’s responsibility to ensure there is a healthy spiritual community, but the danger in doing so is that we end up wholly externalising the responsibility of growth to those around us or those in authority.

Have we stopped to ask ourselves, how might we grow as believers?

Growth is a shared responsibility; while the desire for growth comes personally, the nurturing of growth continues within communities.

Eventually, what helped me was going back to the basics like observing spiritual disciplines such as morning devotion, worship and prayer.

Joining communities such as Bible Study Fellowship also fed my desire for the Word.

Is Christianity just another personal development model?

Perhaps the most important change for me was recognising that Christianity is not another personal development model.

The Bible is not another self-help book — it is the Word of God. And the church is certainly not just there to serve me.

Months ago, I finally realised that, sometimes, you can’t see real growth until you meet with a struggle that demands you to rise up to the challenge.

My struggle came when a staff member of mine suddenly announced that he was leaving. He dropped all the work he had been assigned, which raised the possibility of a damaging loss in clients. I was angry and I wanted to make him pay.

Yet, strangely, after praying, I found my heart softening. I wished him all the best instead, and thanked him for all he had given to us.

From that episode, what I realised is this: though you may not see the roots growing, they are growing.

One might not immediately see the external markers of spiritual growth, but as we walk with God we can trust that they are growing internally.

Real growth is pursuing Christlikeness. It is something we will have the privilege of doing in the journey of life, navigating pain and working through disappointments with people.

And as people see a little more of Christ through us, we might just see a little more of God in us as well!

John believes in using the media to build thriving businesses, and currently runs the marketing agency Media Lede. You can find more of his thoughts on life and adulting at liveyoungandwell.com.