Community and progress are inter-related. If we first agree that the Biblical picture of the church is the called-out-ones of Jesus living together in a new community, that is on God’s mission to declare the good news; and if we can then agree that this community is hallmarked by devotion to teaching, fellowship, communion, prayer, sharing, worship and transformation… then we can also agree that personal progress will almost always take part in or alongside Biblical community.
Progress is the expectation for healthy followers of Christ. Whether it is the apostle Paul’s “I press on” or Peter’s “add to your faith goodness; and to goodness knowledge…for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective” (2 Peter 1:5,8) – we can see the expectation that we not become dormant or atrophy or rot on the vine. The insinuation is that to stop growing is to stagnate.
A helpful question is to identify “where am I?” The red dot on the map says “you are here.” This is helpful in orienting to where you want to go or where you should be. The question is: Where are you on your Christian journey? Are you closer towards the “fullness of Christ” or further behind? What is God doing in your life presently in growing you in Christlikeness?
Often times young people are in a hurry to grow up, and grown people long to be young. Thirty-somethings are building, forty-somethings are asking is this all there is, and fifty-somethings just want to enjoy what’s left. But regardless of age or season, we all must ask “am I becoming the person that God created me to be in Christ Jesus?” Have we stopped “pressing on?” If so, why?
Too often our sinfulness defeats us, and we arrive at the false assumption that this is as good as it’s going to get. This is not the Biblical expectation! We can add qualities of faith to our lives but not by efforts of the flesh. What we add are most often spiritual fruits. These fruits are sourced in a different soil, and our usual tenacity and effort that we apply to other projects won’t work here. That is why I believe so many fall short, get frustrated, and plateau. They have not yet learned to “walk in the Spirit” by learning to grow in spiritual traits that produce the character of Jesus in increasing measure and add to our initial faith.
We are not talking about being perfect; we are simply talking about growing more and more like Jesus over a lifetime. We don’t all start from the same place, and we don’t all travel at the same rate.
The key questions are: Where am I, and where am I going? Are you making progress? Are you pressing on?