STAGES is a disciple making pathway developed by Paul Johnson of the Canadian National Baptist Convention that allows anyone to find where they are on their journey and move forward. For leaders, STAGES provides built in assessments and goals to track where people are and how much they are growing. Every person we encounter can be found somewhere on this path:From the devout believer of another faith, to the oblivious-to-God pleasure seeker, to the cultural Christian with no spiritual rebirth, to the pew warmer at the local church, everyone is somewhere on this path: NOT CURIOUS, CURIOUS, BELIEVER, DISCIPLE, DISCIPLE MAKER, and LIFE LONG SERVANT. People will tell you where they are if you ask them!
OUR ETERNAL REALITY & EARTHLY EXPERIENCE
We know that our eternal reality is simple. There are those who are “in Christ” and those who are not. There are no STAGES when considering our eternal home. But our earthly experience is full of grey areas, “in betweens”, and processes. We can see this process unfold in our own lives and those portrayed in scripture. The disciples, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, Cornelius, Saul of Tarsus, the Ethiopian Eunuch, and Timothy all illustrate an arc of growth. Each of them, being led by the Spirit, traveled down the pathway from curiosity to belief or from following to helping others follow.
A COMMON OBJECTION
A common objection to STAGES is that some of the steps seem unnecessary. When someone starts to follow Jesus they should immediately be taught to be a DISCIPLE, learning to feed self, and possibly even a DISCIPLE MAKER, reaching out to help others. We agree! STAGES doesn’t attempt to slow down or add steps to being the followers of Christ we are called to be. But the STAGES pathway is powerful in a descriptive sense. It allows people to find themselves with accuracy. We know of people who claim to be believers and show no evidence of spiritual rebirth. We know people who are believers and have no idea how to feed themselves spiritually. We know people who have been feeding themselves spiritually for years and have never been trained to feed others. STAGES allows people in these situations to find themselves and invites them to take the next steps towards Christ-likeness. The goal is always to become more like Christ, not to “park” in any of the STAGES. As people become more like Jesus we know we will see more of the traits of the higher stages in their life.
MATURITY AS A PROCESS
As much as we would like for people to immediately become the LIFE LONG SERVANTS they can be, we also know that the Bible describes maturity as a process. Whether its the messy path from “milk to meat” (Hebrew 5:12-14, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2) or the image of a sunrise, growth often comes incrementally. Proverbs says “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” The dark night of skepticism can give way to the predawn glow of curiosity. The glimmering dawn of belief can lead to the rising sun of growth which eventually overwhelms the noon day sky in maturity. What a beautiful picture of a journey into Christ!
We know that people grow spiritually from the accomplished work of Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. We also know that there are some vital connections that can be made that really nurture growth. Here are the four connections explained in the graphic below.
TWO TEAM vs STAGES APPROACH
STAGES also helps us see people on a path rather than either “on” or “off” our team. Too often we convince people to take strained leaps toward insincere conversion prayers or leadership commitments often to no effect. We do this to help them “switch teams” but often orphan them once they are on board. To quote James- “Brothers, this should not be so.”
With a STAGES approach, we can guide people to take incremental steps toward both faith and maturity. The intent of STAGES is not to slow down the process of introducing people to Jesus or to add extra steps. It simply gives precision to our language, approach, and methods as we match them to where people are on their journey.
HOW TO USE STAGES AS A LEADER
As we engage people around us in gospel conversations, our goal should be to quickly identify where people are on the STAGES and whether they are willing to take the next step forward. You can identify what STAGE people are in by asking them. Either by drawing the circles or just explaining it to them, ask them to tell you where they are and if they are interested in moving forward. There is also a more detailed assessment you can email to them. The results will be sent directly to you so you can get started helping them grow. Ideally, you will be confident enough to say “I can help you take the next step!”
Once someone agrees to start meeting for discipleship (MEETUPS), this site will help you find resources that are specific to their STAGE. Just return to the HOME PAGE and get started or see how our MEETUPS are set up by clicking the link below.