Here’s a confession: throughout my life I have periodically wrestled with the suspicion I was somehow “not Christian enough.”
In some ways, it sounds silly, because being a Christian isn’t a quantity that you can have more or less of. But the way Christian culture sometimes presents itself, it feels like there’s a measuring stick for better and, for lack of a better term, “lesser” Christians. And I have often stuck myself in the not Christian enough category.
I’m not alone, because this article receives traffic every month from others searching the term “not Christian enough” or “Am I Christian enough?” So whether you got here though a Google search or skimming through our website’s articles, let me tell you my story and the journey of grace God has led me on.
The spiritual disciplines checklist failure
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” – Jeremiah 29:13
I remember the sign on the men’s dorm wall during my freshman year at a Christian college.
A spiritual disciplines checklist was posted for us to keep track of our “progress” (monitored by a well-meaning resident assistant). I am wired for variety, not daily routines, and I felt ashamed every time I missed checking off the boxes in the “Jim J.” section: daily devotional time, prayer, fellowship, witnessing, tithing. (At least I got tithing – 10% of 0 income.)
I felt ashamed that I wasn’t measuring up, even to the point of checking boxes just so no one would know that I wasn’t making very good Christian progress. Good thing there was no box to check about honesty.
In my own mind, the “not Christian enough” label stuck.
Pursuing intimacy with God, the way God wired me
It was years later that a wise older friend and mentor taught me about true spiritual discipline. We laid aside the Bible study workbooks that had helped bring fulfillment to other men with whom he had met but had only frustrated me.
He challenged me not to the discipline of a method but to the discipline of pursuing intimacy with God according to the way God wired me. I was no longer ashamed that I didn’t have a typical daily devotional time. I felt graceful permission to grow in spurts.
And I let go of the of that “not Christian enough” label that I had once stuck to myself just for being the way God made me.
Commitment to the principle of understanding God’s love and truth is important. But sometimes commitment to a particular method for spiritual growth may be a hindrance. Many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day had rigorous spiritual practices, which became their idol and actually hardened their hearts to matters of faith.
A one-size-fits-all, “this is the right way to do it” approach to faith has left many followers of Christ discouraged and ultimately frustrated about pursuing a vital faith journey.
Find how you nurture your relationship with God
- Scripture reading
- Small group fellowship
- Singing or writing worship music
- Enjoying God in nature
- Serving those less fortunate
The possibilities are as endless as the individuality of people. If painting daily is an act of intimacy with God for you, and journaling is for another, that’s great. One isn’t more faith-filled than the other. If taking a 3-day hike into the mountains is what you need, while others need 15 minutes of daily discipline, then so be it.
The real measuring stick for spiritual disciplines
Your measuring stick isn’t whether a spiritual practice promotes spirituality in others. It’s certainly not whether it looks Christian enough. It’s whether you’re getting closer to God by doing it.
Be warned: Don’t let aspects of the experience, such as a sense of accomplishment, learning, creativity, stimulating conversations, etc., substitute for actual growth in God’s love. Whatever the practice is, a good question to ask is, “Does this really help me to better receive and respond to God’s love?”
That doesn’t make the things that promote creativity or good conversations bad. They’re great and important too! But if I’m going to call it a spiritual discipline, the goal is clear: a deeper understanding of God’s love.
When I deepen my love for God in my own unique way, I set an example that helps others in my family do the same. Together we can let go of the shame-based labels of Christian or not Christian enough. It gives me a basis for joyfully encouraging their uniqueness and for trusting God’s guidance in the journey. This strengthens the idea that spiritual practices must be meaningful and relevant for the purpose of loving God, and not for the purpose of impressing anyone, including myself!
Apply It Now:
- Considering all the possibilities that I can think of, what practices might best help me to experience God’s love?
- How might I develop these practices further? (Those who are new to this concept can start small and ask God for guidance.)
This post was adapted from our book, How to Grow a Connected Family.
Encouragement From a Dad Who’s Been There (Audio Download)
Jim recorded this 38 minute audio thinking about dads (although moms can listen too!). If your wife has recently been digging into our material and is urging you to “get on board!” this is a great place to start.