A “Spiritual Young Adult” – Stage 4/5

In their very helpful manual, the authors of Real Life Discipleship Training Manual, walk their readers through 5 stages of spiritual growth:

  1. Death
  2. Infant
  3. Child
  4. Young Adult
  5. Parent

A better understanding of these stages, is very helpful, not only as we look at our own lives, but as we walk alongside someone we want to introduce to Jesus Christ.


Wouldn’t it be amazing if God transformed us into mature disciples in an instant?  Or at least overnight?  We could say a prayer; attend church regularly; just be baptized; and the rest would be taken care of.  But we know it doesn’t work like that: To become a mature disciple – what we are calling, here, a “spiritual parent” – takes time, intention, renewed effort, and a whole lot of grace.

So let’s look at the next-to-last stage in the journey from spiritual death to becoming a spiritual parent: The Spiritual Young Adult.

Spiritual Young Adults do the following:

  • Begin to see that God shaped them for a purpose.
  • They look for opportunities to serve.
  • They sacrifice to serve.
  • They are able to bear with – and overlook – the faults of others.
  • They are “all-in” and want to do ministry – not just talk about it.

We can summarize all of this by saying, Spiritual Young Adults long to serve.

What do people in the Spiritual Young Adult phase say?:

  • “I love my Life Group, and I want others to experience this, too!’
  • “I have some friends I’ve been walking alongside of – maybe it’s time to invite them to church, to a Life Group, to serve in the community…”
  • “I read this in the Bible…  I wonder what it means.”
  • “Did you hear that John’s wife is sick?  Let’s take them something without being asked to.”

All of this sounds really good, right?  Definitely.  But this is what they need, in order to grow, and reach the final stage, a “Spiritual Parent”:

  • a Spiritual Parent to check in with them, and talk them through what they’re experiencing.
  • ongoing relationships of accountability and encouragement.
  • help continuing to establish good boundaries
  • help identifying gifts for service
  • continued equipping to use those gifts.

We are almost at the last stage – “Spiritual Parent” – so let’s review:

Spiritual death is characterized by unbelief and rebellion: People who are spiritually dead, do not believe in Jesus, and they are living exactly as they please, whether it’s as a prodigal son, who’s living it up, or an elder brother, who’s super religious, lives by the rules, but doesn’t know God’s grace and the humility that comes with it.

Spiritual infancy is characterized by ignorance: After someone is raised to new life, and becomes a new believer in Jesus Christ (we can use the phrase “born again”) – that person knows he belongs to Jesus, but doesn’t know what he doesn’t know: Doesn’t know the Bible; good doctrine; good, godly habits of unselfish love and service.

Spiritual children are characterized by selfishness: This is the person who has begun to learn, but is going through – usually significant – growing pains.  They are still driven by this question: “What’s in it for me?”  Spiritual Children can also be very sentimental: They love the sound – the idea – of being a disciple: It sounds “romantic”, and may bring tears to their eyes, but when the rubber hits the road, they retreat.

Spiritual Young Adults are characterized by service: They are looking for opportunities to love and serve God and their neighbor, in the name of Christ, but need to grow in accountability, good boundaries, and equipping for service.