SGL: Understanding the Stages of Spiritual Growth

Home groups are designed to help people grow spiritually. The discipleship process takes a person from the spiritual infant stage to becoming a spiritual parent. As a spiritual parent the process begins again. The following is a short synopsis of the stages of growth. Every home group leader needs to be thoroughly clear on these stages.

UnbelieverSpiritually dead

Everyone begins as an unbeliever. An unbeliever is one who is spiritually dead. That is, he is spiritually separated from God and can have no relationship with Him. This person does not know Jesus and has not accepted Him as Savior.  He is unbelieving and rebellious. Paul wrote,

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Eph. 2:1-3 NKJ)

While the person is physically alive, he is spiritually dead. He lives like the world driven by the desires of the flesh and of the mind and has no hope but wrath in the end. Jesus died on the cross for this person’s sins (1 Tim. 4:10, 1 John 2:2), but until he responds to the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-11), he remains spiritually dead.

Spiritual Infant – He focuses on self    

This person has accepted Jesus as His Savior, but is not connected in a relationship environment for the purpose of Biblical discipleship.  He is ignorant of God’s Word, confused about spiritual things and dependent on others. That is because he has not been discipled and has not had time to grow. Paul wrote regarding the spiritual infant,

7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. (1 Thes. 2:7-8 NKJ)

Spiritual infants can be five or 55 and they are important like anyone else. As people show love to this person in Jesus, the Lord will cause growth. It is also easy to know a spiritual infant, because of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Cor. 3:1-3 NKJ)

When people behave like carnal men, being divisive and causing strife, they are merely spiritual infants and do not understand the things of God. They need to be shown Jesus’ love and shown a godly way.

Spiritual Child  –  What can I get?                       

This person recognizes his need for relationships with other Christians and is connected in a relational environment for the purpose of discipleship, but life is still all about him.  He is self-centered, prideful, idealistic. He has either a high or low view of self – often because he lives by pride or emotions. John wrote,

12 I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake… I write to you, little children, because you have known the Father. (1 John 2:12a,13c)

Children grow well in a peaceful environment, but they are hindered when they live under guilt. So John writes to children to let them know their sins are forgiven and that it’s the Father who forgives and loves them. At the same time children have not learned responsibility in life, so they need exhortations to do the right thing as Paul wrote,

10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. (1 Thes. 2:10-12 NKJ)

Spiritual parents must live exemplary lives, because children are watching and learning by their examples. Spiritual parents will exhort and guide children to please the Lord in every good work.

Spiritual Young AdultHe wants to serve      

This person has moved from self-centeredness to God- and others-centeredness.  He recognizes his part in the body of Christ.  He is characterized by service, zeal, mission and spiritual independence. He learns to push on when discouraged. John wrote,

I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the wicked one… I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one. (1 John 2:13b, 14b NKJ)

Spiritual young men have learned to depend on the Lord for short amounts of time to accomplish the Lord’s will and they often overcome the temptations of the evil one. As the Word abides in them, they serve others according to the Lord’s strength and in the power of the Holy Spirit. They need challenges and opportunities to lead in order to continue their spiritual growth process.

Spiritual Parent   – He is intentionally reproducing     

The spiritual parent has been serving and ministering and now thinks in terms of reproducing.  He not only feeds himself but intentionally recruits people with two objectives in mind – to help them grow spiritually and to reproduce disciple-makers on the Lord’s team. John wrote,

13 I write to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning.

14 I have written to you, fathers, because you have known Him who is from the beginning. (1 John 2:13a, 14a  NKJ)

Notice that both phrases are exactly the same except that John wrote, “I write…I have written,” but everything else is the same.  Why? They are the same because the father, or spiritual parent, is consistent and has an intimate relationship with God the Father. He knows the Lord and is walking worthily to please the Lord by reproducing disciples. He is following Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2 NKJ)

These spiritual stages of growth are the exciting part of being a home group leader! The progression is a spiritual miracle through the various stages. It’s as much fun as watching your own children grow up!

(These stages are not based on the content of Bible knowledge, but on practical implementation)


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