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Stages Up the H.I.L.L. -- Stage Two
by Tom Goodman
July 21, 2011

God made us to honor him, invite others to him, love each other, and live his Word.  At our church we call that our "H.I.L.L." to climb.  When we fulfill those purposes, we are fulfilled as human beings.

Now, leaders at a church where people find and follow Jesus together will recognize that people are at one of four stages in relation to these life purposes:

Stage One:  "I am exposed to the life purposes."
Stage Two:  "I agree with the life purposes."
Stage Three:  "I practice the life purposes."
Stage Four:  "I advance the life purposes in others."

In last week's LeaderLines, we looked at what to do with those at Stage One.  But those who are exposed to the life purposes must be encouraged to own them.  That's Stage Two.

At this stage, the person says, "Jesus is my Lord and Hillcrest is my church."  She accepts Christ's offer of forgiveness, commits to the path he wants her to walk, and she formally connects with the Hillcrest community through membership.

Think of the second stage as a wedding.  A wedding is the completion of the courtship and the beginning of the marriage.  In the same way, Stage Two is the completion of something and the beginning of something.

On the one hand, Stage Two is the completion of a person's spiritual search.  It's like a wedding.  A wedding isn't the union of two strangers, because in courtship the two get to know each other and consider whether they could spend a lifetime building a home with each other.  In Stage One, people are given the time and the freedom to ask their questions about Christ and see in others what a life as a Christ follower looks like.  They feel more and more a part of the Hillcrest family, and they become more and more persuaded to commit to Christ and his church.  But courtship leads to something.  Just like a wedding date, there comes a point at which someone considering these things commits to these things.  The "Discover Hillcrest" class is completed, and the new member is baptized and/or presented for membership.

On the other hand, Stage Two is the beginning of a person's spiritual growth.  Again, I compare it to the wedding that begins a marriage.  Don't look for a couple in a black tuxedo and white wedding dress if you're looking for a couple that has weathered the storms of life, learned how to forgive, figured out the cost of mutual sacrifice, knows intuitively how best to serve each other, and can predict each other's moods.  If you're looking for a couple like that, go find a 50th wedding anniversary party!

The half-hour wedding is a place to express commitment; it's the lifelong marriage where a couple grows and develops.

Likewise, as leaders of a church where people find and follow Jesus together, we should rejoice when people reach Stage Two; but we should understand that it's only a start.  A newly minted Christian isn't like a believer who has had decades of spiritual growth.

There are still old habits and old ways of thinking that have to be overcome.

Most church leaders say they want to be part of a "New Testament church."  Have you actually read what a church in the New Testament was like?  Most of Paul's letters were written to congregations filled with baby Christians, and the letters cover such basic issues and problems!  So, if you want Hillcrest to be a church like those in the New Testament...

  • expect to deal with doctrinal confusion like you find Paul addressing in the Galatian church,
  • expect to deal with relationship issues like you find Paul addressing in the Philippian church,
  • and expect to deal with the shocking ethical issues like you find Paul addressing in the Corinthian church.

Why?  Because Stage Two is the beginning of spiritual growth, just as a wedding is just the beginning of a marriage.  As Hillcrest leaders, then, we have to rejoice at someone's expression of commitment (Stage Two), and lead them into a lifetime of spiritual growth (Stage Three).  We'll look at that stage in next week's LeaderLines.  For now, praise God for leading many guests to our services in the last several months!  Pray that they will reach Stage Two and join our church through profession of faith or transfer or membership.


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