Your journey toward spiritual maturity requires these seven steps. (Pixabay)

Economic growth is defined as growth in real GDP (gross domestic product). GDP is the final value of all goods and services produced within the borders of a country for a year. In economics, "real" means "adjusted for inflation." Hence, an increase in real GDP is an increase in the quantity of goods and services which a country produces. GDP growth determines, to a large extent, employment, wages and the standard of living.

Because the computation of real GDP involves millions of transactions, the BEA (Bureau of Economic Analysis) releases reports well after the relevant quarter. For example, the first estimate for GDP for the fourth quarter of 2016 was released in January 2017, the second in February, and the third estimate was last week. The report showed that fourth quarter real GDP increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.1 percent (compared to 1.9 percent for the first and second estimates). For the entire year of 2016, real GDP increased at a rate of 1.6 percent (compared to 2.6 percent for 2015).

The first estimate for the first quarter of 2016 will be released on April 28. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has a model which predicts GDP called GDPNow. Their model is currently predicting annualized first quarter real GDP growth to be 0.9 percent. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's model called the Nowcasting Report is predicting second quarter yearly growth to be 2.9 percent. A 2.0 percent spread between the forecasts of two Federal Reserve Banks is huge.

The U. S. desperately needs growth promoting policies. The size of the economy will double in approximately 72 years with 1 percent annual growth, but a 4 percent annual growth doubles the economy in 18 years. Large U.S. debt and an increasing population accentuates the need for greater real GDP growth.

The growth of the Christian faith has been phenomenal. The Pew Research Center published a research report two years ago entitled "The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050." The Christian church began from the modest beginnings of a 120-member church to the first mega church, with more than 3,000 adherents, the first day. Pew estimated that there were 2.17 billion Christians in 2010, and the number was expected to grow to 2.92 billion by 2050.

But according to the Pew report, all is not well. Christianity is growing but it is not growing as fast as Islam. Christianity is currently the largest religion in the world. But at current rates, Islam is expected to be the largest religion after 2070. Most of the people that are leaving Christianity are becoming unaffiliated. The U. S. and Europe have the smallest growth rates. But the church is growing rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia and South America. Pew expects 40 percent of the world's Christians to live in sub-Saharan Africa in 2050.

As believers, we need spiritual growth. Our churches need to grow in breadth (numbers) and depth (knowledge and commitment). The future of our families, country and world depend to a large extent on the corporate spiritual growth of believers. Jesus has paid the price. The Scriptures provide examples and guidance. The Spirit provides direction and power. But do we have the will? Do we really want to grow? The following are some of the biblical principles which will help us grow spiritually, if we are willing.

1. Honor our leaders. The Word tells us to acknowledge the work and highly esteem our leaders in love.

"We ask you, brothers, to acknowledge those who labor among you, and are appointed over you in the Lord, and instruct you. Esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thess. 5:12-13).

2. Honor and serve others. We are told to warn, comfort, support, be patient and do good to others.

"Now we exhort you, brothers, warn those who are unruly, comfort the faint-hearted, support the weak, and be patient toward everyone. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone. But always seek to do good to one another and to all" (1 Thess. 5:14-15).

3. "Rejoice always" (1 Thess. 5:16).

4. "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

5. Thank God for everything.

"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5:18).

6. Do not quench the Spirit. Don't despise the gifts of the Spirit including prophecy. But examine all things. Keep what is good.

"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Examine all things. Firmly hold onto what is good" (1 Thess. 5:19-21).

7. Abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thess. 5:22).

As ministers, we should be preaching the Word. Our responsibility is to equip the saints for service and build up the church. We will know our job is done when our charges have come to a unity of the faith and knowledge of Jesus, into a complete man, and reached a measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. In other words, our responsibility is spiritual growth. Do we have the will?

"I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching" (2 Tim. 4:1-2).

"For the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," (Eph. 4:12-13).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics and undergraduate chair of the College of Business at Oral Roberts University.

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