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Spiritually Stalled: Why It Happens, and What You Can Do

Posted by Ron Moore on

A real concern for many believers today is the feeling of not growing spiritually. Now, this isn't something that only new believers face, but even those who have been walking with the Lord for years. Every Christian comes to a place in their walk with Christ where they feel like they're at a standstill.

Greg Hawkins and Sally Parkinson conducted extensive research (over a quarter of a million people in 1,000 churches) to determine the spiritual process in the lives of believers. They discovered that believers are found in one of three stages:

  • Growing in Christ
  • Close to Christ
  • Christ-centered

Their research revealed that regardless of which stage believers were in, 92% of those surveyed reported having experienced being stalled at some point in their spiritual journey.* 

Most every believer experiences times of soul-weariness. This is an issue we need to be aware of and prepared for. The stalled state leaves a believer vulnerable.  

For most Christians, many of the stalling points are caused by one or more of ten factors. In this post, we'll take a brief look at all ten, from least influential to most influential.

10. A two-way tie: addictions, and pain caused by other Christians (9% each)
Addictions

As soon as we hear the word "addictions," we think of drugs and alcohol. Certainly, those are serious addictions. Heroin in our area is rampant.

Alcohol, of course, is accepted in most circles. I’m amazed that even in the Christian community, alcohol has become a “must-have” at social gatherings. At The Bible Chapel, we take this stance: alcohol is never to be at a Bible Chapel sponsored event, nor will we ever promote an event with our ministry partners where alcohol is being served. 

Bottom line, drunkenness is forbidden (Luke 21:34; Romans 13:13, Ephesians 2:18, among others). However, drinking is allowed (1 Timothy 5:23, among others), and abstinence is celebrated (Proverbs 31:4-5).

It’s good to know what your stumbling blocks are and to set up boundaries for our own protection, but addictions go much farther than drugs and alcohol. They include out of control spending, gambling, hoarding, cutting, etc.

Ultimately, anything we want more than Jesus or depend upon more than Jesus keeps us from growing spiritually.

Pain Caused by Other CHristians

The sad reality is that many believers have been hurt. I received a note this week from a young person who was hurt by a relationship and later by other believers. Someone said that the church is the only place that shoots its wounded.

Now certainly we have to confront sin and speak the truth – but always in love! Bottom line is that we can't let other people keep us from a love for Jesus and in a growing relationship with him. At the end of the day, I cannot blame others for my being stalled.

9. Not loving others (11%)

Scripture is clear about not loving others (Romans 12:10, Galatians 5:13, 1 Peter 1:22, 1 John 3:23). We are called to love one another!

When we disobey God and his Word, we will not see spiritual growth. Not loving one another shows up in a critical spirit, being judgmental, prejudice, racism, and pride. 

I get it, though, some people are hard to love. Regardless of how hard people are to love, Scripture is clear.

8. Three-way tie: traumatic experiences, not having the support of others, and doubts about my faith (12% each)
Traumatic Experiences

These come in all different forms. It could be the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or illness. Here is what I normally see: at the beginning of a traumatic experience, there is a complete dependence on the Lord. We are blown over by the storm, and we are totally dependent on him. Then as the days turn into weeks, months, or even years, dependence turns into discouragement, even disillusionment. It’s hard to grow when you’re discouraged.

Not having the support of others

This issue often comes when you are the only believer in your family. That is challenging, and that's why you have to be connected to a small group of people (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Doubts about my faith

If this is an issue for you, there are many resources. At The Bible Chapel, we often offer a class on Christian apologetics, and we would love to meet with you and answer your questions. You can email us at . Other excellent resources are

7. A two-way tie: lack of meaningful church community and personality issues (16% each)
Lack of meaningful church community

Question: think about the last time you were in a season of your life where you were stalled spiritually. Were you attending your current church or not? The following chart shows where study respondents were in their spiritual lives when they experienced a stall.


Base: Respondents Who Answered That They Had a Season of Being Spiritually Stalled

Personality issues

This can take many forms: too much pride or ego, for example, or being withdrawn. I believe that pride is at the core of all sin. Pride keeps me from being vulnerable and makes me focus on presenting an appearance of having it all together. Being withdrawn certainly is a challenge for many. I know that some people are very shy and naturally introverted, but spiritual growth demands that you trust God to reach out to others.

6. Emotional issues (22%)

Emotional issues are things like anger, stress, anxiety, pain management, depression, discouragement, self-confidence. All these can get in the way of our walk with Christ.

5. Relationship issues (24%)

I think it's fair to say we've all found ourselves in a stage of life where we struggle. It could be singleness and wanting to be married or waiting on the right spouse, and experiencing issues with dating. It could be marriage disharmony—outright conflict or being on different pages spiritually. Two believers can hold very different views about issues like money, service, church attendance, etc. Or maybe it's parenting issues. What parent hasn't had some stress related issues with children? Maybe it's work. There are always tensions and difficulties at work, and often even drama.

4. Conflicting responsibilities (30%)

Work. Family. Church. Community. Recreation. These things can wear you down. In marriage classes, time management has become one of the issues couples want to discuss. Our culture today pressures families to be involved in everything—kids have to be on the right teams, taking the right classes, joining the right groups, and the list goes on.

3. Lack of accountability or encouragement (36%)

The Christian life was never mean to be lived solo. It is dangerous out there by yourself. In those National Geographic television shows, the lion always goes after the antelope that is on its own. And I have learned the hard way that even the person expressing the most machismo and bravado can crash without encouragement.

2. Letting other activities take precedence (42%)

Priorities.

I am not a huge fan of Steven Covey, but one of the examples he gives is invaluable. He uses sand, gravel, and rocks to represent the activities of our life. Sand is the small stuff, gravel the more important, and rocks the most important. He shows that if you put the sand in first, there is not enough room for the big rocks. But if you put the big rocks in first, the gravel and sand settle around the big rocks. So it is with our priorities. Put the big things first, and the smaller things will find their spaces in between.

1. Lack of discipline in spiritual practices (60%)

Neglecting to read the Bible, to worship, to connect, to serve, and to share: these are the things that caused a spiritual slide for the largest number of respondents.

Top 5 remedies for the spiritually stalled

If you find yourself in a season of stagnation regarding your spiritual growth, what can you do to get back on track? Following are the top five helpful things that respondents report they did:

5. Had a spiritually moving experience (13%)

These can include doing things like attending a retreat, listening to an inspirational speaker (podcasts are great!), or reading an inspirational book. Two great books are Knowing God by J. I. Packer and Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. You can also try a biography of a Christian leader.

4. Shared my struggles with a spiritual friend or mentor (21%)

Try being vulnerable and opening up to others. We were made for community, and we need to hear discerning words from our Christian brothers and sisters (Galatians 6:2).

3. Joined a small group (22%)

This is another way to add the element of community to your spiritual journey. At The Bible Chapel, we have many opportunities to join small groups. You can study Living Grounded with a group (contact ), or join a Connect, Core, or Care Group (contact ), or join a Men's Huddle Group (contact ). You can also become involved with one of our many ministries for your stage of life, such as Chapel Women ( ), Chapel Sages ( ), or Chapel Young Adults ( ).

2. Just came to grips with the situation on my own (32%)

I love this one. Many folks simply said to themselves, I need to step it up. I can't remain stalled and still be satisfied. Read John 5:1-15 and ask yourself, do I want to get well?

1. Connected with God in a powerful way through prayer, solitude, and/or Scripture (37%)

You can do this by reading God’s Word (Psalm 19:7-14, Jeremiah 23:29, 2 Samuel 5:20 NLT, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Here are some ideas to try:

Reading plans

Back to the Bible has some great reading plans. From 21-day plans to one-year plans, there's something for everyone's schedule.

 

Read, Reflect, and Respond

Go beyond reading. Pray about what you read. Keep a journal and write about it. Find a time, place, and method that works for you.


 

Today everyone wants the easy way out. There are commercials for weight loss that try to sell you "Just sign up for the plan. Eat what you want. Lose weight."

Bookstores are filled with self-help books on spirituality. But the reality is that obedience is hard.

Ask the teenager committed to staying pure while experiencing hormonal explosions.

Ask the husband and wife who vowed, for better, for worse" and are now experiencing a long stretch of "worse."

Ask the couple whose plea for a child continues to go unanswered.

Ask the single parent trying to honor God while feeling the financial pressure of being the sole provider.

Ask the young adult who is waiting (and waiting) for God to provide a godly spouse.

Ask the person whose constant battle with a nagging temptation is wearing them out.

Ask the person who feels like their sacrificial service goes unnoticed and is unappreciated.

Ask the Christian businessperson determined to do things God's way while others get ahead with their cutthroat, corner-cutting practices.

Ask the person fighting fear and discouragement while going through another round of treatment.

Ask the couple serving as caregivers for aging parents.

Ask the person trudging through the grueling journey of grief.

That's why the five things you can do to recharge your growth are so important.


 

* Reveal: Spiritual Life Survey, The Bible Chapel Composite, June 2012

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