Stages of Faith – Part 2


Scripture Text: Exodus 2:11-15

1. I see my faith as a living thing, something that grows and develops. I’ve come a long way and learned a lot, and I don’t think I’m done yet.

a. In seminary I was introduced to a book written by James Fowler called Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning

In a nutshell, Fowler observed that people’s faith and spirituality developed much the same way as people themselves do: a childlike faith all the way through stages to a mature faith if things goes as they should.

b. What I pray happens is that studying stages of faith will help you find the place where you are now in your faith and, also as important, see where you’re going next.


2. Stage 1 is characterized by being dependent for everything and needing to trust, yet also having a childlike wonder and joy as you experience God and having faith.

3. Stage 2 we’ll call “Youth,” or the time when you start to disengage from the faith that’s been given to you and want to head out on your own.

a. Fowler called this stage the ‘Synthetic-Conventional’ faith where there’s a growing tension between conformity to authority and development of one’s one faith identity.

b. “Synthetic” describes something that is made to look the way something else looks naturally. It’s natural-ish.

 We’ve been looking at flooring for our new house and have checked out natural wood vs. synthetic flooring made to look like wood. Good and useful stuff but wood-ish instead of real wood.

 Same with a pipe organ vs. a keyboard synthesizer which is programmed to produce a pipe organ-ish sound.

c. The experiences of youth are awesome and good in their own right, but best when they are real-ish and not yet real. Your brain, heart and soul need some more development before you’re ready for adulthood.

 So great experiences for this stage are: ROTC, student driving, student government, going steady, mission trips

d. They are great because they allow you to test out your own ways of doing, thinking, believing; and start to push away from doing just what others told you to.

 But they also are experiences in which you can make recoverable mistakes – they are learning experiences.

 Like that brake pedal the driving instructor gets on the passenger side.


4. Take the example of Moses. Scholars think he’s actually around 40 when this story takes place – but see if you can see evidence of this ‘youthful’ stage in his actions.

a. Read 2:11-15

b. Moses feels called to be a great leader from his upbringing in Pharoah’s palace, and a delivering savior for his enslaved people from his birth, but can only manage being “ish.”

 His attempt to lead and liberate are too violent, too isolated, and ultimately too little.

c. It’s a big mistake and he pays a big price. But its not unrecoverable. At the end of the passage he sits down by a well in Midian, and the next phase of his preparation to be the leader and savior his people need is about to begin.

5. The biggest experience of this stage is heading out on your own and being OK with “ish.” “Ish” gives you the space you need to LEARN.

a. So get in the drivers seat of your faith just like a teenager wants to get in the drivers seat of their life.

 Get a feel for interpreting scripture your own way; praying and worshiping in the way that seems best to you; serving the way you feel gifted to serve.

b. But don’t demand your spiritual drivers’ license until you get enough time with your learners’ permit. Submit to Jesus’s guidance and the help of others so your mistakes, of which there will be many, are recoverable.

c. As a church, our challenge is to let people at this stage, no matter their actual age, to get behind the wheel yet still be willing to intervene if they’re about to plow into someone.

6. Learning is the key experience, but here are three other important experiences to have during this stage of faith development:

a. Join the debate team.


 Put faith to the test and submit key doctrines to pros and cons. Think critically about how faith applies to daily life and big issues like politics, ethics, relationships and sexuality.

 Just make sure you look honestly at both sides.

b. Go steady with God.

 This stage is often a time when you feel a deep, intimate, passionate relationship with Jesus…ecause for the first time it really feels like YOURS, something special for you.

 Enjoy and deepen that feeling. God is honored by it and uses it to prepare you for the challenges ahead.

c. Gather mentors.

 People at this stage need people who use their authority to guide and challenge them as they figure things out on their own, not dictate to them.

 If you are at this stage, seek people willing to be there for you to help you learn your lessons and see how mistakes are recoverable.

7. Handout

a. Are you at stage 2? Are you past it? Do you need to double back and work on things you skipped or missed?

b. What are some stage 2 experiences you can have starting this week?


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