What Will Make My Next Decade Different?

By Mark A. Taylor

Her question has stayed with me for weeks.

At a family gathering between Christmas and New Year’s, she challenged the group at the table, “Think back to the beginning of the decade that’s about to end. What would the person you were then think of the person you are today?”

A day or two later I read a Facebook update from a friend anticipating a family meeting with her husband and two school-age daughters. The agenda: to discuss individual and family goals and dreams for the coming year.

As simple as this is, it strikes me as rare. I certainly can’t remember ever convening such a discussion at home. And the thought occurs to me, if I had established the habit of annual goal-setting years ago, maybe I’d have more to say now about how I’ve grown in the last decade.

Nowhere could this be more significant than with spiritual goals. A few more minutes of daily prayer each year. An annual increase of one percentage point in giving. A yearly goal to win at least one person to Christ. I’m struck by how much richer the last decade could have been had I considered such goals each January.

But when it comes to spiritual goal setting, it seems I’m not the only person not getting it done.

Pollster George Barna puts it this way: “Effective and periodic measurement of spirituality—conducted personally or through a church—is not common at this time.” *

The researcher said many Christians don’t understand what spiritual maturity looks like or how to measure spiritual growth. And church leaders aren’t doing enough to help:

Few pastors have gone so far as to give their congregants a specific, written statement of how they define spiritual maturity, how it might be measured, the strategy for facilitating such maturity or what scriptural passages are most helpful in describing and fostering maturity.

Those pastors who made any attempt to measure maturity were more likely to gauge depth on the basis of participation in programs than to evaluate people’s spiritual understanding or any type of transformational fruit in their lives.

Like those pastors, I feel more comfortable with programs than introspection. If I can stay busy—attending, preparing, meeting, talking—I can convince myself I’m in pretty good shape. “Look at all I’m doing for God—more than many people I know.”

That’s the “you” I see a decade ago, an aspiring Christian giving much more energy to scheduled service than to sober reflection. But by God’s grace, this column will not be the end of my desire to create a better picture in the coming decade.

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*www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/325-barna-studies-the-research-offers-a-year-in-review-perspective

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