From Here to Maturity is a book about Overcoming the Juvenilization of American Christianity, written by Thomas E. Bergler. In this post, I’ll review the book along with a short evaluation for its use in Small Group Ministry in a Local Church, like Greenwood.

From Here to Maturity 1

 

Overview of From Here to Maturity

This book begins with a chapter that basically summarizes his other book: The Juvenilization of American Christianity. He uses that earlier work as the premise for the present book. The basic idea of the previous book is that Christianity in America has become more like youth culture over the past few decades – and that is a bad thing in his view. He demonstrates that many people within churches believe that spiritual maturity is something that cannot be attained and isn’t a major priority. In chapter two, “Growing up into Christ,” Bergler suggests a three step process: 1) people embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, 2) people are captured by a vision of spiritual maturity that is desirable and attainable, with clear content, 3) they understand the process of growth to maturity so that they can participate in it. He then suggests that spiritual maturity is basic competence in the Christian life. Furthermore, people who are mature are not finished but they continue to grow in holiness.

Chapter three, “Helping Adults Mature” describes Dallas Willard’s “VIM” model. He writes, “As people catch the Vision for who God wants them to become, they will be motivated to form the Intention to pursue the Vision…Means are the spiritual disciplines that believers undertake in order to receive God’s grace to change into the person God wants them to become” (58). After describing some ways to work out that model, he suggests that another issue for churches to overcome is that many people have immature emotional patterns. The church must work to develop mature emotional patterns within believers so that they can lead others in the process of maturity.

Finally, in the last chapter, Bergler suggests that churches evaluate the elements their worship practices so that they can then take one of four steps: 1) accept it, 2) eliminate it, 3) modify it to minimize negative effects, 4) compensate for its negative effects through other practices.

Evaluation of From Here to Maturity

Bergler offers some wonderful advice for guarding against “slow dance worship” that likens following Jesus to an adolescent romantic relationship (137). He is also very fair in his book. Bergler does not condemn any particular movement or denomination. He merely suggests that Christianity should not mimic youth culture or juvenile behavior. Within that premise though he leaves much room for different expressions. For instance, he acknowledges different worship music styles and suggests several ways that a church might choose to modify its current approach. He does so without suggesting that any one way is “more spiritual” than another. For this reason I recommend the book. Bergler encourages the reader to work toward developing a culture that drives believers toward maturity in Christ, and leaves room for the reader to make choices about how to do that in their own context.

Takeaways for Small Group Ministry at Greenwood from the book From Here to Maturity

At our church we encourage everyone to be a part of a small group Bible study. Our senior pastor does it from the pulpit, we do it in our bulletin, social media, etc. We even make a point of talking about it in our initial membership meeting. So, I feel like we effectively communicate the importance of being a part of a group that encourages a person to grow in their faith.

As a result of reading From Here to Maturity I decided to implement a few formal opportunities for people to develop tools to help them grow in their faith. The first step has been to design and implement two classes that I call Bible 101 and Bible 102. The first deals with how to read the Old Testament, and the second (coming fall of 2018) deals with how to read the New Testament. I have designed these to be one and a half hour long courses after church on Sunday that include lunch (People can eat while I’m teaching). There is much work to be done in my context, and hopefully these two classes will start us down the road to developing some formal steps to guide people toward spiritual maturity.

I’ve also decided to make some adjustments to the language that I use. I have decided to use the words “spiritual maturity” more often with the description – basic ability to read and apply scripture to your life. I’ve also decided to not use the word “holiness” (as in a spiritually mature person grows more and more holy over their lifetime). Instead I’m planning to just use the phrase, “spiritually mature people aren’t perfect, but they are growing more and more like Jesus.” I’m planning to incorporate these two bits of language into my small group promotions for fall groups, and classes.

If you are interested in reading Thomas Bergler’s book, you can purchase the book through my affiliate link here. If you enjoyed this post you may enjoy my review of Evan’s Exoticization of Ancient Culture or my review of Grenz’s Who Needs Theology?. If you live in the DFW area, I’d love to meet up with you sometime – hit me up on twitter to connect!

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