A Tempe pastor, working with national pollster George Gallup Jr., is the co-creator of a method to measure how Christians are faring in their faith journeys and what their spiritual strengths and deficiencies are.
"It is a tool that will help create spiritual movement in your life if it is done in community with people who care for you and who are going to encourage you to take the necessary steps," said the Rev. Scott Jones, senior pastor of Grace Community Church, 1200 E. Southern Ave.
Some regard it as too radical to believe that you could measure spirituality, Jones said, adding that it has caused "a little bit of a stir in the religious world."
Influencing Jones and colleagues was a 1992 book by Gallup and Timothy Jones, "The Saints Among Us: How the Spiritually Committed Are Changing Our World."
"They found statistically that committed Christians showed a greater degree of joy, patience, peace, kindness and other things in their lives, and we were fascinated by that study," Jones said. They contacted Gallup for help as they sought to develop a "model of what a growing disciple is" and identify virtues, or what the Bible calls the "fruits of the spirit" (Galatians 5:22).
In the survey, participants are asked to respond to 30 statements that measure their love of God and love of neighbor. In addition, three people who know the person well are instructed to answer the same statements as they apply to that person.
Statements include "I thank God daily for who he is and what he is doing in my life"; "No task is too menial to me if God calls me to do it"; "I know my spiritual gifts and use them in helping others"; "I am known for not raising my voice " and "I regularly study the Bible to find direction for my life." They make up what Jones calls 30 core competencies.
"The Christian Life Profile," now used in at least 100 churches nationwide, is helping to define how well American Christians are maturing in their faith, beliefs and practices.
In June 2002, a Gallup telephone survey of 1,509 adults nationally found that 80 percent considered themselves coming from Christian religious tradition, 6 percent from a non-Christian tradition and 13 percent of no religious tradition.
In March, the Center for Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania, working with the Gallup Organization and the Gallup International Institute, released their "Spiritual State of the Union " study. It found that six in 10 Americans said their faith permeated every aspect of their lives. Seventy percent felt the need to experience spiritual growth in their daily lives, and seven in 10 said they have meaning and purpose in their lives because of their faith.
Jones, 43, was serving as executive pastor of Pantego Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in the mid-1990s when he and the senior pastor, Randy Frazee, discussed a need to develop measurements for their congregation.
"One of the things that St. Peter said was to add to your faith, kindness and goodness and other virtues, because it was a good benchmark to indicate whether or not you are growing," he said.
The pastors wanted to determine whether those things "were showing up" in the lives of church members.
"What became cutting edge was the fact that we are going to quit measuring the ABCs — attendance, buildings and cash — and start measuring the spiritual development of our people," Jones said. A profile, they reasoned, could serve as a snapshot of where someone is spiritually.
"They could compare it to the life of Christ, and they can say, ‘Well, this is where I look like him, this is where I don’t and now I need something that will help me bridge the gap,’ " Jones said.
"We were doing this in our churches and some other churches that caught an interest in it as early as 1997, and then George Gallup Jr. began in early 2000 to take the questions we had developed from the Christian Life Profile," Jones said.
"There were 120 of them — 40 dealing with beliefs, 40 dealing with practices and 40 dealing with virtues. He extracted the top 30 . . . to one day poll America on where they stood spiritually measured against these 30 questions."
To identify oneself as a growing, maturing believer, it is helpful to recognize movement in different areas.
"The goal that we had was for a person to assess and understand where they were and to celebrate where they were strong because we don’t celebrate that enough," said Jones, who came a year ago to Grace Community Church. The church attracts about 4,000 people to Sunday morning worship and ministries.
Jones said spiritual growth must be intentional.
"There are some schools of thought that say, ‘Let go, let God (take control) — you will wind up stronger and more spiritual in five years,’ " he said. "I don’t think so. Spirituality does not occur by osmosis and by tenure."