Conducting a Spiritual Audit: A First Fifteen of Questions…

Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Blog | 11 comments

Have you ever asked, “so how do you measure spiritual growth?” Sermon after sermon challenges us to commit to grow spiritually, or to become more like Jesus, but how do we know if we are getting there? Are there any signs we can spot that reassure us that we are heading in the right direction?

Back in 1998 Fred Smith wrote a wonderfully insightful and oft quoted article on conducting a spiritual audit. In it he poses 12 questions we should ask. It is probably because I am writing this as rugby world cup fever heats up, and with the three countries I have the closest links to (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) all having made it through to the semi-finals, you will perhaps excuse me for thinking in terms of first fifteen selections. So whereas 12 questions were enough for Fred Smith, I have modified and expanded his list (also using a modification of it that former Vose lecturer Mike Parsons put together) to come up with a rugby squad of 15 audit questions – some the same as Smith’s original list, some different.

Why not ask them of yourself, and see how it is tracking with your soul.

You might like to go a step further, and make it a real audit. Give yourself a mark from 1-5 on each, 1 = this is deeply problematic, 5 = YES! This is really going well. Count your score at the end and keep a record of it. Take the audit every 6 months. The point is not what number you start with, but whether it climbs over time. Of course when it reaches 75, start working on your pride problem (or your lack of realism, or your ability to self-delude).

  1. Am I content with who I am becoming? Every day I get closer to who I will ultimately be. Am I satisfied with who this will be? It’s important that we be more than we do or have. Am I becoming a person of wisdom?
  2. Can I name the chapter of the book that my life is currently writing? What chapter am I in right now. Will it help me to move in the direction I sense God is asking of my life?
  3. Am I becoming less religious and more spiritual? The difference between religion and spirituality is basically a matter of control. Religion is an experience I can control, while spirituality is an experience that controls me. It relieves us from the responsibility to impress God.
  4. Does my family recognize the authenticity of my spirituality? They see me whole. If I am growing spiritually, my family will recognize it. If they don’t, what would they identify as the blocks? Is there something I should be doing about them?
  5. Do I have a flow-through way of Christian living? Some of us want to be a lake, not a river. We want to accumulate before we let too much flow through. However, as a Christian, I am to let the blessing of God flow through me. Oswald Chambers warns that when we dam the blessings in our life, we become stagnant and mean-spirited. We must break the dam and let the blessings flow like a river.
  6. Do I have a quiet centre to my life? Francois Fenelon said, ‘Peace is what God wants for you no matter what is happening.’ There is an important difference between the fast track and the frantic track. It is not God’s will for me to be frantic. ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Jesus had a quiet centre. Do I have it too? Do I take any intentional steps to grow this quiet centre. For example, if I flipped through my diary right now, would I come across some blocks of time that I have scheduled to ‘be still and know that I am God’?
  7. Have I identified my voice? Do I know what I can do effectively, and do I know the particular way that I am likely to go about doing it? The need is always bigger than I can satisfy, and so my call is simply to handle the part of the need that is mine to do. Unless I know the things I do uniquely well, I’ll end up doing many mediocre things just to please others.
  8. Have I found my place in the community of God? I am not called to follow Jesus alone. I am invited into community with God’s people. They will help to strengthen and nurture me, just as I will help to strengthen and nurture them. I must not be deceived by the individualism of our time for it will try to deceive me into thinking that it is all about me.
  9. Is my prayer life improving? Progress, not perfection, is all I can hope for in my spiritual growth. One test of my prayer life is this: Do my decisions have prayer as an integral part, or do I make decisions out of my desires and then immerse them in a sanctimonious prayer?
  10. Have I maintained a genuine awe of God? Awe inspires, it overwhelms, it intimidates my humanness, it inspires worship. Awe isn’t learned, it’s realized.
  11. Is my humility genuine? Two definitions of humility: ‘Humility is accepting your strength with gratitude’ and, ‘Humility is not denying the power that you have but admitting that the power comes through you, not from you.’ We are not to pray for humility; that prayer would have to be answered with tribulation. We are told to humble ourselves. Am I doing it?
  12. Is my ‘spiritual feeding’ the right diet for me? We can’t all wear the same glasses, nor can we all take the same medicine. Just so, we have different personality and character traits that need developing or dwarfing. That means we must find the spiritual feeding that is right for us. Is part of my feeding a deeper reading of scripture and a greater appreciation of what it teaches?
  13. Can I say the word ‘weight’ and ‘exercise’ without heaving a deep sigh. Tricky this one, but scripture teaches that our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit. It matters how we treat it. I can’t divorce my physical self from my spiritual self. And it is not just exercise and food. Do I guard what my eyes see, exercise caution over what my ears hear, and consider carefully what my mouth says? More positively, do I consciously obey the Phil 4:8 instruction and see, speak, listen and ponder, to the glory of God.
  14. Is my obedience in small matters built into my reflexes? Do I try to bargain with God or rationalize with him? Obedience largely determines my relationship with Christ after new birth. He says I am his friend if I obey him. Therefore I must check my obedience. My good intentions count for little. I can obey God out of fear or from love. Both he and I prefer love.
  15. Do I have joy? Doubt dilutes joy. Does my joy extend into my suffering? Am I joyful in the adequacy of God? Is my joy on the surface and dependant on the situation, or does it flow from a Spirit filled centre deep within?

Ah well, regardless of if your current answer sheet is filled with grades of 1 or 2, or if you have more cheerfully clocked up a heap of 4’s and 5’s – I most truly pray that God will help you in the journey ahead. Put one foot in front of the next and take heart, the tortoise usually wins… And even if it doesn’t win, you are only racing against yourself.

Nice chatting

11 Comments

  1. Thanks Brian, a really useful list.

  2. i found this interesting and challenging, but I wasn’t brave enough to keep a score. Thanks Brian

  3. Thanks Brian, I found this post really encouraging in the way that it challenged me to pursue growth and furthermore, gave specific area’s to work on that can be assessed, targeted and measure.
    I think this is really beneficial to every individual and would be an excellent sermon series for any Church

  4. John Ortberg says, with a chuckle, that we need to measure spiritual growth in such a way that the Pharisees don’t win. I think these questions avoid the competition mentality by penetrating to the heart of the matter.

    I wonder whether questions like this could form the basis of a small group structure or mentoring relationship…similar to Wesley’s accountability questions, but hopefully being a few steps further away from the descent into legalism that the more black & white questions (like “Did you read your bible this week?”) are prone to.

  5. Thanks Brian. This is not only personally helpful (and challenging!) but may prove useful to us as we wrestle with this very issue in the school context too.

  6. Thanks Brian. I am a little late catching up with the readings on the Moodle.

    It was a question without answer to me. But these questions are very useful for my personal growth goals

  7. Thanks, Brian. I found this very helpful. I have just completed a review, and can say that, whilst there has been growth for me, I have also reduced certain initial scores as being more recognisably inflated. Here’s to flexibility in actual growth moving towards completeness.

  8. 13. (weight and exercise) definitely seemed to be linked to 9. (prayer) for me, as they are both linked to sleep. When I don’t eat well and exercise, I’m sluggish and I sleep later. When I sleep later, I don’t start the day with centering prayer in the quietest part of the day.

    I can probably find a pretty direct link between all of them actually, which is good news because if I work on one, the others lift as well.

  9. Thanks Brian.
    Great things to ponder when walking in the calling of God.
    I love the challenge of #6 Do I have a quiet centre to my life?
    So many times the value of a day is based on tasks achieved – and the more there are, the better you can feel about yourself. This idea of having a quiet centre in being still with God is one that only recently I have begun exploring in depth – to value the appointment with God for that quiet hour of walking together as much as the appointment with a leader to plan the next successful event !!!
    It has brought depth and peace and yes, joy to the everyday. I have begun to see and hear God with more clarity.

  10. I have been a reader of Fred Smith’s articles on ChristianityToday for some time and have really appreciated his focus as well as the intent of his ‘Spiritual Audit’.

    Many Thanks Brian for this’revised version’ and for your modification and inclusions. They are really appreciated as in this semester (Sem 2 2017), I am conducting a Higher Education unit of study on ‘The Spiritual Formation of Teachers’ in a Master of Education course that I coordinate in the School of Education and Humanities (SEH) at Christian Heritage College in Brisbane, Australia.

    These resources are invaluable tools to assist in these spiritual formation processes.

    • So glad it is useful Robert. Hope the unit goes really well.

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