Wednesday, August 26

So what is spiritual maturity?

Most every ministry and church has as part of their purpose to help bring people to "spiritual maturity." Unfortunately, most of us don't have a very clear picture of exactly what spiritual maturity is. Here is a report from the Barna Group (and reported by the Campus Ministry Update) that talks about our confusion regarding this.


A study by the Barna Group and Living on the Edge indicates most churchgoers and clergy are unsure of what they mean by spiritual maturity, let alone how to pursue it. Among the challenges identified by the report:

* Most Christians equate spiritual maturity with following the rules

* Most church goers are unclear of what their church expects in terms of spiritual maturity

* Most Christians offer one dimensional views of spiritual maturity – often with a highly personal focus

* Most Christians struggle with feeling the relevance of expressing objectives for spirituality. They favor activities over attitudes in what they should do as mature Christians

* Pastors are surprisingly vague about the biblical references they use to ground their ideas of spiritual maturity.

( May 18, 2009)


The problem with not understanding spiritual maturity is that we don't know where we should be going or how to get there. And if we don't understand God's perspective on spiritual maturity, then we are apt to set our own goals and standards, which may be far different than what God values.

So ... what do you think of when you think of spiritual maturity? How would you describe or define it? Let me know what you think and I'll come back in a couple of days and share some of my thoughts on the subject.

Wednesday, August 19

Interesting Odds and Ends

Some things that have come across my computer lately. You might find some of it interesting ...


Each year, Beloit College puts together a "Mindset List" that describes some of the cultural landmarks that year's college freshman class has experienced. This year's freshman class was born in 1991. Here is Beloit's description of the world they grew up in.

Another study examines the correlation between what students choose to study and their religious convictions.


Here is an interesting video describing the growing impact of social media in our world.


According to a report on CNN, 90% of the currency in the US has traces of cocaine on it. Weird.


I'm a little hesitant to mention this last one, but I will. One of the favorites in the Women's 800 meters at the World Track & Field Championships (now taking place in Berlin) will have a hearing today to see if she can compete in the final. The question at hand: Is she "entirely female"? Here is a report on the situation and an editorial on it (that describes some situations in the past). I feel bad for the young woman involved. She is only 18. Regardless of how it is resolved, it has to be uncomfortable for her.

Monday, August 17

Stacy's Wedding

The summer of Armstrong weddings is over. As most who read this know, both of our daughters got married this summer - making for an exciting, and sometimes exhausting, time. Stacy and Ryan were married on July 31, but I've waited a few days to post this because I wanted to include some pictures with it.

Stacy is 22 a
nd our baby. She is the more introverted of our daughters, but is bright and beautiful and caring. She is like her dad in that she is "always right" - and maybe right more often than I am. (I quit playing Boggle with her when she was in about the seventh grade because I could no long beat her.) She finished her degrees in marketing and organizational management at the University of Arkansas in May and wants to work in the non-profit sector in some way. Just as Stacy is different than Erin, so was her wedding. It was indoors and elegant, but both were great parties!

Ryan also graduated from the UofA in May, but he started his education in the kindergarten classroo
m of Mrs. Armstrong. (He claims she almost flunked him because he couldn't skip!) He is a good man whom I have enjoyed watching grow personally and spiritually over the past 3+ years. He and Stacy have worshiped and served together at Christ on Campus. The only bad thing I have to say is that his job as a software engineer has moved them to Colorado Springs.

Gina and I are happy for them and proud of them both. And the girls getting married isn't as hard as their men moving them to other states. We'll have to be praying about a solution to that.

Thursday, August 13

News from the University Campus

Here are some interesting trends on college campuses. As the new school year approaches, I'll post a few more of these. Credit goes to the Ivy Jungle Network. They compile information like this in their monthly Campus Ministry Update.


Booze More than Books: A recent study indicates nearly half of college freshmen spend more time drinking than studying. The survey asked questions of more than 30,000 first year students at 76 campuses. Students who said they had at least one drink in the last 14 days, spent an average of 10.2 hours drinking and only 8.4 hours studying. 70% of all respondents said they drank. 49.4% spent more time drinking than studying. (USA Today March 19, 2009)


Facebook and Grades: A study out of Ohio State indicates that those who spend time on the social networking have lower grades than those who do not. The study is small and preliminary, but indicates that students may not realize the effect of their social connections on their studies. Facebook users studied an average of five hours a week. Non-users studied two to three times that amount. 80% of students believe that their use of Facebook does not interfere with their studies. ( April 14, 2009)

Tuesday, August 11

Some Summer Reading

August is here and I'm back to work after a couple of months off for a "sabbatical." I put that in quotes because it wasn't a typical sabbatical - a time given for spiritual renewal and reflection. There was definitely an element of that, but with both daughters getting married this summer, there was also a lot of wedding preparations, moving children, etc. So, though the time off was much needed and much appreciated, it was also pretty busy! But now that I'm back at the Rockhouse on a regular basis, my blog posts will pick up. You are warned.

One of my goals during those couple of months was to read at least two hours a day. Though I didn't accomplish that every day, I did get through quite a few books. I wanted to just mention four that I found interesting and worthy of your consideration. These are listed in the order I completed them:

"The Contemplative Pastor" by Eugene Peterson - Anything by Peterson is valuable and worthy of your time. In this book, he challenges the role of most in ministry - running a church or a ministry. He calls us to replace the role of "religious executive" with something different: to be one whose "job is not to solve people's problems or make them happy, but to help them see the grace operating in their lives." In order to that, we must learn to be unbusy, subversive, and apocalyptic. And I love this quote:

"If I, even for a moment, accept my culture's definition of me, I am rendered harmless." (p. 15)

That is the reason why I rarely volunteer the fact that I am in ministry when I first meet someone. As soon as those words come out of my mouth (or someone else's), stereotypes set in and barriers go up. People assume they know what I'm like or what I think because of the title they give me. I prefer to let people discover that I'm a minister as our relationship grows. It often freaks them out.

"The Great Emergence" by Phyllis Tickle - In this short, readable book Tickle describes the transition taking place in Christianity, the forces that have brought it about over the past 150 years, and her idea of what the future looks like. She also traces us back over the past 2,000 years of history to demonstrate that this type of transition isn't really anything new. As she puts it, "Every five hundred years, the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale." That may not be completely accurate, but you get the picture. Tickle gives a general overview of church history. She then zeroes in on the last 150 years and highlights factors that she feels has led us to post-modernism, the emerging church, etc. Her liberal biases do poke through on occasion, but I think her insight on history and cultural area valuable. Here is one of my favorite passages:

"The question of 'Where now is our authority?' is the fundamental or foundational question of all human existence and/or endeavor, be it individual or that of a larger, social unit. Without an answer to it, the individual personality or the personality of the group at large alike will fall into disarray and ultimate chaos. It is Hell where there is no answer to that question." p. 72

"Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell - This is Gladwell's study of those who lie outside the usual human scope of ability and accomplishment. It is an examination of genius and success. He points out that in the US, we think of success as being the result of hard work and ability. We like the stories of the self-made men and women who overcome great obstacles to build their successes and their fortunes. But as Gladwell makes his case, there are some interesting factors in success:

* Ability - Though some natural ability is needed to be successful in any endeavor, greater ability doesn't necessarily equal greater success. In studying the IQ's of those who are successful, Gladwell says that you have to be "smart enough" but that, after a certain point, a higher IQ doesn't guarantee greater success. Someone with an IQ of 140 is just as likely to be successful as a person with an IQ of 195 and people from "good" schools but now "elite" schools are just as likely to win Nobel prizes. His point: there are other factors that come into play.

* Opportunity - This is where it starts to get really interesting. Often, success can be influenced simply by your birth date. If you were one of the oldest starting school (or playing in little league), that often translates into greater success. Those who have been the biggest names in the computing revolution (such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Bill Joy) were born within six months of one another.

* Perseverance - But ability and opportunity aren't enough. There is a certain level of practice and perseverance that is needed to rise above others. In fact, Gladwell tells us what that level is: 10,000 hours. That is the amount of practice time needed for one to really excel and rise above their contemporaries.

* Cultural Legacy - The final component is what you inherit from your cultural and your family. This includes attitudes and habits and values and opportunities that are passed down from generation to generation.

Of course, statistics can be made to say about anything and Gladwell's book is more anecdotal than based on solid objective research. But it is fascinating and easy to read. And it may make you spend a little more time practicing.

"The Shack" by William P. Young - I have put off reading this book for a long time. It has been on the best sellers' lists for a long time and I have heard many people talk about it. It just never sounded like the kind of book that I would be interested in. I was wrong. Once I started reading it, I had a hard time putting it down. I found the book interesting and challenging and thought-provoking. It is not solid, biblical theology and it doesn't attempt to answer all of the questions we have about God and how he operates. But that isn't its purpose. It is a work of fiction that causes us to look at our beliefs and preconceptions from different angles.