The Christian Faith: A Maturity Model

tags: faith

I work in technology, which is occasionally prone to “maturity models.” These are matrices that purport to show the growth of an organization in different areas, through an increasing scale of competence.

The idea behind maturity models is that you can find where on the scale your organization lies, feel some satisfaction if you’re not at the lowest level, and figure out where you need to go next. So, a maturity model is both a tool for evaluation and inspiration.

I thought I might apply this to Christian faith. In my own faith walk, I tend to ask myself, “Where am I now? Where do I need to go next?”

In a grossly simplified form, I offer this – a five-level, progressive model for Christian faith. Although this is clearly biased by my own walk, I’ve found that these are five common steps a person will go through on the path from unbelief to fully matured faith.

(Disclaimer: This is largely observational from a life spent in a Christian family and church. I make no claims for where I currently fall on this scale.)

The five steps are:

  1. Belief: A basic belief in the tenets of the Christian faith – that there exists a God of creation who became human and sacrificed Himself on behalf of humanity.

  2. Lifestyle: An active (attempted) avoidance of sin, and a carrying of one’s personal affairs to the standards expressed in Biblical scripture.

  3. Fellowship: Engagement with a community of believers, and regular service to preserve, energize, and renew that community.

  4. Relationship: Entrance into a personal relationship and communication with God through daily devotion and prayer.

  5. Evangelism: An attempt to spread the Christian faith to others through outreach, witness, missions, and other outward-facing works.

(The order of steps 3 and 4 is debatable. Arguments could be made either way that one belongs in front of the other. Maybe they’re just 3a and 3b?)

Let me disclaim this by saying that this is not perfectly linear. People might exist at a step in varying degrees of force, and they may skip a step.

  • Someone might believe and attend church (steps 1 and 3) while living a wildly secular lifestyle (step 2)
  • Someone without fellowship options (Christians living in non-Christian countries, for example) might not have much for step 3
  • Someone might engage in all the outward indications of Christian faith (steps 2, 3, and 5) while having trouble with belief (step 1) and therefore not engaging in any relationship (step 4)

However, as a general framework, this seems to be a reasonable representation of how someone might develop in their Christian faith.

I believe the model has value for a non- or new-believer as it breaks down a faith walk into smaller, more easily approachable parts. Many non-believers may be intimidated by a Christian faith that they view as a monolithic thing which has to be consumed in one system. An understanding that there are smaller steps to be taken, which together aggregate into a larger whole, can make the idea of Christian faith more approachable.

Deane Barker

December 2, 2019