by Thom Rainer
My wife, Nellie Jo, and I raised three sons. They are all followers of Christ. They have all married godly women and are raising their own families. We watched them move from toddler to preschooler to adolescent to teenager and then to adulthood.
There are times when boys stall out in their maturing from one stage of life to another. Content with the level of care they receive in one stage, they have a hard time seeing the need to mature. In reality, it’s not just little boys who get stuck in one stage of life—we all do.
Spiritual transformation occurs in every believer. But there are seasons when transformation stalls. Many things can contribute to a stalled spiritual life, but here are five barriers to spiritual growth common among church leaders.
Busyness. Ministers often are so caught up in doing the work of God they neglect being with God. Too much activity has a way of drowning out God’s voice. Has your daily time in God’s Word become sporadic? Are you forfeiting personal prayer time to visit church members? Are you focusing on the good instead of the best?
Discouragement. Often when pastors are hurt by a church member, they retreat into themselves instead of turning to God for healing and guidance.
Pride. Success in ministry can lead to a false sense that you no longer need God’s daily guidance. Pride can enter into your life often unnoticed.
Do you only pray before sermons, when in great need, or in trouble? Have you stopped praying privately? Do you only spend time in the Bible preparing for sermons?
Spiritual warfare. Satan would love to keep pastors from practicing spiritual disciplines. Be careful in discerning Satan’s lying voice from God’s truth.
External focus. Pastors have a tendency to focus more on leading an organization (the church) than on their own spiritual vitality.
Each of these factors can lead to a stalled spiritual life. Here are some ways to experience spiritual renewal and maintain a growing relationship with Jesus.
Be spiritually fresh. Spiritual fatigue leads to frustration that results in spiritual fruitlessness. Ask God to give you a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Focus on new things God wants to teach you.
Feed on God’s Word. We tend to be so busy running our lives, our families, and our ministries, we don’t take time to hear from God. Engaging God through His Word must be a daily occurrence.
I continue to be amazed, but not surprised, how this discipline affects our spiritual health, our emotional health, and our leadership ability.
Pray regularly and fervently. The health of your personal walk with God and your ministry are directly related to your prayer life. Unselfish praying releases fresh power that will energize and revolutionize your life and ministry.
Pray daily, consistently, and honestly. Go to God not only with petitions for others and for guidance for the challenges you face, but to confess sin, to thank Him for answered prayers, and to praise Him for who He is.
Fast. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that calls us to slow down, seek God, confess sin, deny self, and allow God to work through our weaknesses. It is an act of obedience that turns our focus to Christ.
Share the gospel. Evangelism has the side effect of reinforcing our confidence in the faith we’re sharing.
As physical exercise is a discipline, so is spiritual exercise. The natural order of things is for energy to wane, and things come to a grinding halt. But the Christian life is not intended to operate that way. God creates new life in us and wants to transform our everyday living into a portrait of the gospel’s power.
If you find your spiritual life has stalled, it’s time to make a decision. Christ’s plan for His people is that we become more like Him. Decide today that stalling is no longer an option. Pray, asking God to renew your hope and vision for transformation and spiritual renewal.