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Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Catalysts to Spiritual Growth

I'm reading a lot these days about spiritual growth. This interest flows from my passion to lead people to follow Jesus Christ fully and faithfully (and to lead others to do the same). 

I'm reading books by Neil Cole, Mike Breen/Alex Absalom, Colin Marshall/Tony Payne, and Greg Hawkins/Cally Parkinson. These are just my recent readings. I've been influenced by many great authors, pastors and theologians on this topic. (Rick Warren, Andy Stanley, John Ortberg, Dallas Willard, Tim Keller, David Platt, Francis Chan, John Piper, JI Packard, Mark Dever, Chuck Swindoll, Chuck Colson, Phillip Yancy, Brother Yun, Randy Alcorn, Mark Batterson, and many more). I'm open to suggestions, too, if you think I need to read anyone in particular. 

So currently, I'm reading through Move, by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson (Reveal). The subtitle is, "What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth." Great content here! Lots of statistical data that gives insight to how people grow spiritually (at least in America). This is a huge sample size too. I so appreciate this valuable contribution to the church in America and beyond through Bill Hybel's leadership.

What I'd like to do is share one nugget that might not surprise you, but hopefully, will inspire you to go further in your walk with Christ. (or get you started)

They share that there are basically four categories of people in our churches today with respect to where they are with Christ. These categories are:

Image from revealnow.com

1. Exploring Christ - "I believe in God but I'm not sure about Christ. My faith is not a significant part of my life."

2. Growing in Christ - "I believe in Jesus and I am working on what it means to get to know Him."

3. Close to Christ - "I feel really close to Christ and depend on Him for daily guidance."

4. Christ-centered - "My relationship with Jesus is the most important relationship in my life. It guides everything I do."

Now most people do not grow in a consistent manner. They are up and down and often experience setbacks. The point here isn't to pigeon-hole people but to recognize that people in our churches are at different places in their walk with Christ. And that we should encourage them to grow from where they are.

And here's the kicker: There are different catalysts that help people move from where they are to their next step closer to Christ. This is what I'm really after in my reading. How can I help people take their next step towards fully and faithfully following Jesus?

So what is it that moves people forward in spiritual growth? (defined as loving God and people more and more) The authors indicate that there are several catalysts that "move" people toward Christ. While there are a different mix of catalysts between each category (called Movements), there are a few catalysts that exist between more than one of these categories. 

Today there is one that I want to highlight because it's the single most important catalyst to spiritual growth for at least one reason: Because it's a top 5 catalyst in leading people from each category to the next. And not just in one category--it's in all three movements. In fact, it's the only catalyst in the top 5 of all three movements. It's extremely significant!

What is this catalyst? 

"Reflection on Scripture"

What is that? It's reading the Bible. But it's more than that: It's thinking about what you're reading in the Bible. But it's even more than that. It's thinking about what you're reading as personal words from God to you. It's not just an academic exercise. It's believing that it's God's #1 way to communicate with us. And then it's acting on that belief by actually doing it. And not just doing it regularly. The further up the continuum you climb, the more frequently they found people practiced this spiritual discipline. It becomes a daily commitment.

So what does that mean to you and me?

Practically, it means that no matter where you are spiritually, if you want to grow in your relationship with God, you must interact with him through regular and prayerful time in the Bible. More time in the Bible directly impacts the rate at which you grow. 

It's not the only factor. It's not even the highest factor. But it's the only factor that appears in the top 5 catalysts between each category of persons.

Where to go from here? Start reading the Bible each day. And talk or write to God about what you've read. A journal is helpful here. If you are looking for practical helps, feel free to message me or comment below.