Often church leaders suggest steps for spiritual growth that are based more on tradition than biblical mandates or examples. Offering quick-fix programs for spiritual progress attempts to stencil people into exacting Christian shapes, which threaten the essential focus of intimacy with God, the cornerstone of growing more like Christ. If we believe our relationship with God is based on a checklist of behaviors, we'll be overwhelmed before we begin.
True spiritual growth focuses on developing an intimate, trusting, obedient relationship with God, who daily gives us the grace we need to take the next step in our spiritual journey. People are in different places at different times, with specific needs and hurts that one-size-fits-all spiritual packaging just doesn't fit. God certainly meets us through his Word and prayer, but also through nature, music, relationships, serving, giving, life circumstances, and countless indefinable situations. God created each of us uniquely, and he meets us in ways that are often beyond our expectations or imagination.
That said, spending time contemplating the Word and praying is essential for spiritual growth. Instead of specific formats, however, we should encourage regular discipline that recognizes and maximizes each person's unique situation in a way that will foster lasting life change. The writer of Psalm 119 outlined a variety of creative ways to focus on the Word of God, including asking the Holy Spirit to open his eyes to the truth of Scripture, memorization, speaking the Word out loud, meditation, and musical lyrics based on Scripture. Figuring out how best to hide God's Word in our hearts is an individual process. The key is to be resolved not to neglect the Word of God.
We also need others to help us, such as how Elijah mentored Elisha (1 Kings 19:21). The early Christian church understood that spiritual maturity occurs naturally when we fellowship with other believers. Not only did they spend time ministering and praying together, they regularly ate at each other's homes and met every day in the temple courts. Natural community with other believers encouraged "glad and sincere hearts" (Acts 2:46).
Spiritual growth is dependent on an intimate, vibrant relationship with God, not a prescribed pattern of religious obligations. It requires consistency and self-discipline, but should leave room for flexibility and individuality. Methods should not be mistaken for a formula to follow, but rather seen as tools to help us focus on a greater intimacy with the heavenly Father who loves us more than we can think or imagine.