The Truth of God Must be Applied to the Heart

Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” As disciples of Jesus, we are simultaneously sent to live on mission. Living on mission is part of what it means to be a disciple. Biblically, there is no such thing as a disciple who does not live on mission. As Christ was sent for us, we have been sent to the world around us.

As church leaders consider “discipleship” and “mission,” they must not view these as divorced from one another, as if “we disciple people” and then later “challenge them to live on mission.” We don’t graduate from discipleship and move on to mission. Both are always essential and deeply connected. We must challenge people and teach people to live on mission as we disciple them. And we must continually disciple them as they live on mission.

Discipleship is neither information nor behavioral modification but is ultimately transformation. In the book Transformational Discipleship, we unpack a framework for transformation based on research. God is not bound by any framework, but He often transforms His people as:

  • Godly leaders apply
  • the truth to hearts
  • while people are in a teachable posture

As the image illustrates, the convergence of godly leaders, the truth of God, and a teachable posture results in our hearts being more and more conformed to His image.

An encouragement about mission and discipleship:

In the research behind Transformational Discipleship, we discovered that an “outward focus” puts people in a teachable posture. A church that is serious about discipleship provides mission opportunities for their people, not just for the benefit of those who will be served but also for those who are serving. Mission opportunities, in reality, are simultaneously discipleship opportunities:

  • A mission opportunity makes someone eager for preparation. The church member who finally shares his faith at work and is asked questions he cannot yet answer has a new motivation to learn some of the lessons he has heard for years.
  • A ministry assignment puts people in a position of being wholly overwhelmed, where they know they need Him and His power. A sense of mission drives us to prayer and dependence on Him.
  • A mission assignment has the potential to rock and change one’s perspective of the world, people, and the need for the gospel to advance more rapidly.

As you seek to develop doers and not merely hearers, mission opportunities put the people you serve in a teachable posture. God will use mission to transform the people you serve.

A caution about mission and discipleship:

Without the truth of God applied to our hearts, a teachable posture will not result in transformation. In other words, the truth of God must be applied to the heart in the midst of mission. If we don’t apply the truth of the gospel, mission engagement can degenerate into attempts to earn God’s favor or alleviate guilt.

We live in an altruistic society where people are encouraged to do good, to engage in humanitarian work, and to serve our society. People want a mission. And people want a law—a list of things they can check off to feel justified and approved before God. We must be careful not to make mission a new law.

Church leaders must constantly remind people of the why of mission in the midst of mission, that we serve a missionary God who came here to rescue us, that we live as sent believers because Jesus was sent here for us. Mission must not be our justification but our response to our justification.

We must remind the people we serve to rejoice more in what Christ has done for us than what Christ does through us. If awe for what He does through us surpasses awe for what He has done for us, mission is our idol instead of our response.

Jesus gives us this example. When the disciples came back to Him filled with excitement over the result of the mission assignment Jesus had given them, Jesus cautioned them to rejoice in their forgiveness rather than their influence.

The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash. Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you. However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20)

Discipleship and mission are deeply interwoven. As we disciple people, we must help them understand that mission is part of their discipleship. And we must constantly remind people of the grace of God as they serve Him.

> Read more from Eric.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Developing an Assessment Culture that Provides Truth Today and Direction Tomorrow

I hate bad stats. They undermine the credibility of Christians and can confuse the issues. (I’ve written on the issue in Christianity Today.) But when we apply stats wisely, they can be of great benefit.

So while I often say “facts are our friends,” they aren’t always friendly. For example, in 2009, LifeWay Research found that 55% of church attendees believed they had grown spiritually over the last year, while only 3.5% of those displayed any measurable growth. That’s not a very warm and fuzzy stat, but it’s an honest one.

Sometimes, though, churches tend to be more hopeful than honest when they look at their situation. That can be good—we are a people of faith. However, bad information undermines good strategy. I believe that churches must have the right information to make that right decisions.

That takes intellegent self assessment.

When we speak of the need for an assessment culture, we want churches and Christians to avoid making claims that are unsubstantiated. We, above all others, need to be trustworthy, and we can do that with accurate assessment of where we are as individuals and a church.

Churches need honesty as much as they need to have hope.

Assessments are a great way to examine the truth about today and provide a direction for tomorrow. And an assessment culture within a church provides a way forward in thinking about where we are and how to go forward in making disciples.

For so long, churches have claimed success because their focus was on bodies, budgets, and buildings. Other areas, where the picture was not as pretty, were ignored. Creating a true assessment culture is about changing the scorecard. Attention is given to the factors that really lead to biblical growth and transformation within a church across cultural contexts and regardless of the size.

In Transformational Church, Thom Rainer and I examine the research to determine and explain the factors that were common to those churches across the spectrum who were experiencing true transformation. It’s why we developed our Transformational Church Assessment Tool. Instead of targeting areas that had been traditional measuring sticks for discipleship, we evaluated a broad spectrum of churches that were seeing transformation take place. They made disciples. By investigating what was taking place there, we proposed a new scorecard to assess the actual health of a church.

I’m not concerned so much that you use our LifeWay Research assessment tools—though I believe in it because the methods are verified statistically and repeatable in any church setting—I just want you to be engaged in assessing your ministry and doing so in a way that gives you an accurate portrayal of your success or lack thereof.

An assessment culture helps you take a realistic look at what your priority areas should be and evaluate how you are making progress in those. Too often we allow ourselves to slip into a false comfort from anecdotal progress that is not really indicative of what is happening.

I want your church to be transformational, and I know you do as well. We need churches that are being transformed by their dynamic relationship with Christ and, as a result, transforming their members and their surrounding neighborhood. Establishing an assessment culture can help you find and address the areas where you are not seeing that occur as well and as often as it could.

Later in this series on creating an assessment culture, I will be talking about why it is you need it, what are some wrong ways to do it, and two of the factors that must be a part of any church assessment culture.

While “creating an assessment culture” may not sound like the most intriguing topic, I believe it is vital to the health of your church. It enables and empowers you to not just think you are making disciples on a consistent basis, but to know that your church is regularly fulfilling the Great Commission.

Part One of a four-part series. Read part Two here.

Read more from Ed here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Start with 3 Prerequisites to Make Change in Your Church Not Just Possible, but Transformational

One of the most common questions I hear from church leaders is “How long will it take my church to change?”

It’s such a great question because change sometimes feels, well, impossible.

  • You hear a constant stream of complaints
  • You’ve run into too many people who like things the way they are now (or the way they were a long time ago)
  • You’ve got too many friends who got hurt badly trying to lead change
  • The committees keep meeting and they keep stalling
  • You’re starting to feel like Moses in the desert with no Promised Land in sight

I get that, I’ve been there.

But don’t get discouraged. Change—even radical change—is possible.

 

A Change From Dying Slowly to Growing Rapidly

I’ve led change in a local church for 18 years with the many of the same core group of people I started with when I was a seminary grad.

18 years ago, I began ministry with three small mainline churches whose total average attendance was less than 50. They churches were about as traditional as churches get: century old buildings, organs, choirs, committees, few kids and zero growth.

Within 5 years we had sold all three buildings and merged the three churches into a new church with a new name and a new mission. In the process, we changed the structure of leadership, engineered a radical overhaul of the style of worship, moved to an elementary school and launched a building campaign. In the process, we grew to over 10 times our original size.

Then almost 6 years ago, a core of us left the denomination we were a part of. We left a nearly paid for building to start again in neighbouring communities as Connexus, launching two locations at once. We moved from a permanent building to rented facilities and planted as a North Point Strategic Partner. Now, we’re able to reach more people than ever before, and 60% of the people who walk in our door come from an unchurched background. This has helped us realize our vision to be a church that unchurched people love to attend.

I realize, that’s a lot of change. Have we lost people? Of course.

But we have reached many more. And many didn’t leave. Some have been with us through the entire 18 year journey.

I share those things not to boast—God receives the credit—but to let you know that change is possible. Radical change is possible.

 

It Even Happens in Vegas

Your church doesn’t have to be stalled or dying to experience the benefits of change.

One of the best examples of this is how Jud Whilite took over the senior pastor role at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas after Gene Appel had led it from 400 to over 8000 in attendance. If you follow church world at all, those transitions don’t always go well (that’s an understatement). How do you build on that? Under Jud’s leadership, Central has become a distinctly different church and grown even more.

It changed. And reached more people.

Change won’t make peace with the status quo. Change bridges the gap between what is and what could be.

 

Three Prerequisites for Change

Before you start engineering change, there are at least three prerequisites:

1. A clear and compelling vision, mission and strategy. Most people have a vision and mission, but few have a strategy. Mission answers the question of what we’re called to do. Vision answers why we’re called to do it. But strategy is about how we will accomplish it. Strategy is often the difference between success and failure. And please, understand, I’m talking about embarking on good change here—godly, biblical, wise and courageous change that will result in a mission being accomplished.  Not some whim of a dictator like leader.

2. A team committed to bringing about the change. You can’t do this alone. You need at least a handful of people committed to the change. People who will pray with you and help broker the change. You can usually find them. You just have to look.

3. A deep resolve. Are people go to enthusiastically embrace even good change? Many will not, but most will—if you know how to lead them. Leading Change Without Losing It is a guide to help leaders navigate the nerve-wracking opposition that comes with change.

 

A Reasonable Time Frame for Change

So how fast can you change? While times will vary, here’s what I believe is a reasonable timeframe for change based on an organization that is currently not on a path way to change:

12-18 Month Prep Period. Again, assuming you are going to bring up change in a change resistant culture, it might take you 12-18 months to get the prerequisites outlined above in place. If you have a change-friendly context, you might be able to do this in 3-6 months. Either way, you’ll need to cast vision for change, create a vision, mission and strategy that will lead your church forward and share it all enough that is owned by at least a small group of people other than yourself (in our church of 50, we had maybe a dozen truly onboard to start).  One thing you can start changing in this window is your attitude. You can preach better, bring hope to meetings and inspire people. Attitude is something always in your control.

The goal of this prep period is to cast as clear and compelling picture as you can of who you are going to be and what you’re going to look like 5 years from now.

Then break the change down into short term (One year), medium term (2-3 years) and long term (3-5 year) goals.

Year 1. Year one is the time to get some quick wins under your belt. Move to a better curriculum. Preach better series. Introduce some new music. Change your meeting structure or frequency. Paint something. Pick some changes that are easy to make and will result in a better experience now.  Remember, these are clear steps that are going to help you get to your five year goal, not just random and unstrategic changes.

2-3 Years. Choose some structural changes you want to make. We reformed our governance structure, made initial plans to sell our historic buildings, started introducing new musicians and a band (as we moved away from traditional music), introduced some new spiritual growth initiatives and moved our kids ministry to where we wanted it to be. You need to start laying the structural support system for change now or by the time you get to year 5, your change won’t be sustainable.

4-5 Years. Make your final changes. For us, it meant that our transformation is Sunday service style, governance, structure and more was complete. The last 10% is always the hardest, so don’t quit. Don’t overestimate what you can accomplish in 1 year, but don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in 5.

5+ Years. Keep changing. You’re never done. And now you’ve got new issues to solve and anticipate that didn’t exist when you started. So keep going.

 

A Final Word on Change v. Transformation

You can create a lot of change in 5 years. But when does transformation happen?

I believe transformation happens when

>The changes you make become embedded in the organizational culture. What was new has become normal. People assume it’s just going to be this way. And what was novel is now a foundation for all future decisions. The change has become a part of your organizational culture.

>Most people no longer want to go back; they want to move forward. I say most people, because you’ll always have the dissenters. But most people want to move forward. They’re excited. Their vision has moved from being about the past to now embracing the present and future. The best is yet to come, and you can feel it.

So exactly when does transformation happen?

I believe transformation happens somewhere between Year 5 and Year 7.

Once you’ve made the change, have demonstrated that you’re not turning back, and you’ve begun to see some of the benefits of change (you’re healthier and likely growing), then the shift in values and culture happens —almost silently. You know it’s a new day when people can’t imagine going back to the way they once were.

And that is an incredible reward for those who navigate change. Not to mention to the people who will benefit from your renewed mission.

What have you learned about change? What stumbling blocks or change-accelerants have you discovered?

Read more from Carey here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Rick Warren on Preaching for Life Transformation

If God’s objective for every believer is to transform us into total Christlikeness, then the objective of preaching is to motivate people to develop Christlike convictions (to think like Jesus), Christlike character (to feel like Jesus), and Christlike conduct (to act like Jesus). Every other objective of preaching is secondary. At the end of the sermon, if people aren’t being transformed in how they think, feel, and act, I’ve missed the mark as a preacher.

To put it another way, the ultimate goal of preaching is not information. In fact, giving people a greater knowledge of the Bible can cause pride to develop in our hearers rather than humility if that information isn’t translated into obedience. And the goal if preaching is not merely instruction either. Preaching certainly includes instruction, but there is more to preaching that mere behavior modification. The goal of well-rounded preaching is transformation and obedience.

If we preach with life transformation as our goal, then the result will be believers who are more obedient to the Bible, and we call obedient believers disciples. Just look at the challenges Jesus gave as He taught people – He continually expected people to DO something as a result of hearing Him.

“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:17 (NIV)

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:37 (NIV)

“But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matt. 7:26 (NIV)

“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” Matt. 12:50 (NIV)

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” Matt. 7:21 (NIV)

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…” John 14:23-24 (NIV)

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” Luke 11:28 (NIV)

Pastors, we are in the business of producing repentance. And repentance is more than being sorry, it’s more than confessing sin, and it’s more than changing some bad habits. Repentance involves a total change of our thinking to be in agreement with God, which affects our emotions and moves us to act in obedience.

Repentance is changing minds at the deepest level –  the level of beliefs & values. We preach to produce the ultimate paradigm shift for people – the very transformation of their lives. And it’s serious business!

Read more from Rick here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

You Cannot Be Changed and Comfortable at the Same Time

All people everywhere possess a natural, inherent bias in favor of status quo. We resist change, and prefer keeping things just as they are because change involves risk and stress (even good change, or change from worse to better), and we are naturally wired to reduce risk and stress wherever and whenever we can.

The problem with this natural bias, of course, is that all true learning and discovery, all personal development and growth, and every experience of authentic transformation, happens ~ and can only happen ~ outside that protective “status quo” bubble.

Simply put, you cannot be changed and be comfortable at the same time.

Authentic transformation happens outside your comfort zone. Risk and stress are intrinsic aspects of all true personal growth and transformation. There is no way around this fact: To be changed, you must first be uncomfortable, and you must remain in that uncomfortableness for as long as it takes for the change to become, in essence, the “new normal.”

It’s one thing to study Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler (Mark 10). It’s quite another to actually surrender all our money to God, or (for many of us) to surrender even a tithe.

Yet it’s through just such transformational experiences that all meaningful change and growth happens.

In fact, recent studies in neuroscience have revealed that in order for any learning experience to be truly transformational (i.e. life-changing), it must include these four elements:

1. It must be interruptive & immersive ~ The experience must take people out of their established routines and immerse them in something novel and different. For example, relocating a group from its regular gathering place to someplace different or unexpected, such as a riverbank or downtown coffee shop.

2. It must be emotionally compelling ~ The experience must matter to people on an emotional level. This can be accomplished in several ways ~ for example, by engaging their compassion (as in feeding or clothing the homeless in your community), by challenging their fear (as in spending the night in prayer alone in the wilderness), or by appealing to their sense of adventure (as in inviting them to join a mission team to an exotic location)…to name a few.

3. It must be kinesthetic ~ Counter to the practice followed by public school for many decades, we learn best when our bodies are actively involved. This could be as simple as taking a class on a walk as you teach a lesson. The best experiences, though, engage the body in ways that mirror or amplify the primary lesson of the experience, such as taking a trust walk or a wilderness hike as a study on what it means to walk with God.

4. It must include an “anchor memory” ~ When people experience significant change, they almost always point to a specific moment or memory when “everything changed.” In the same way, transformational experiences must include a ritual, shared experience, or other kind “crossing the threshold” moment people can later use as their “anchor memory” ~ the defining moment they identify as the turning point when everything changed.

Now, consider all the educational programming pieces currently in play in your church or faith-based organization. This includes any Sunday morning program (if you’re a church), or any leadership development or training programs you have in place.

Based on the elements listed above, which of your programs are the most authentically transformational? Which are the least transformational? I encourage you to make a list, from most to least, then for each explore this question:

How could we redesign this to make it more authentically transformational?

>> Interruptive, emotionally compelling, kinesthetic, and memorable ~ 4 key ingredients for designing learning experiences that are not only “accurate,” but life changing.

Read more from Michael here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Warden

Michael is a leadership coach and team dynamics expert who partners with Christian leaders to help them become better leaders and help them change the world.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Transformational Teaching as Songwriting

Who’s your favorite songwriter? That usually depends on your musical taste—it could be anyone from the Beatles to Bono to Billy Joel. All great songwriters have the ability to move us deeply through their work, engaging our hearts and minds about both the trivial and the philosophical. A great song is a snapshot of life, of reality, that leaves you somehow clearer and lighter.

Your goal for every message, for every teaching moment, should be to challenge, expose, and transform people’s underlying beliefs about reality—their core beliefs—not just to communicate information. Transformational teaching must connect with the heart and the soul, not just the head. Isn’t that what great songs do? This leads me to believe that we can learn a few things from great songwriters that will make our times of teaching more effective and more transformational if we can learn to master them.

1. Think arc, not outline.

“What do I want people to feel?” This is the question that will help you craft your message in terms of arc, not outline. For decades, most teachers have leaned far to the left-brain when preparing messages, focusing all of the attention on precise theological language and a systematic presentation. This is great for academic lectures and communicating information, but does it produce transformation?

Great songwriters think about the arc of the song. What do I want people to feel at the different stages of the song? What will it take to move people there? This is a more right-brain approach to message development, but it’s imperative for transformational teaching.

Recently, I attended a service where the message was about prejudice. I don’t remember the key passage for the day or the three points of the pastor’s outline (maybe it would have helped if they all started with “p” or something), but I do remember how I felt at the end of the message. He told a memorable story that connected with me on an emotional level—that’s what hit me that day. The powerful combination of theological truth communicated in a way that connected emotionally is what made the difference.

So when you start thinking about your next message, don’t just think about what you want people to know, think about what you want them to feel.

2. What’s the refrain?

Almost every great song has a memorable chorus, a repeated section with a melody and lyrical combination that sticks in your brain.

So what’s the refrain in your next message? What will people remember? One of the best examples of a refrain in speaking is “I Have a Dream” in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech.

If you’re thinking arc and refrain instead of outline and main idea, you may find it helpful to use a standard song form for your next message: verse, refrain, verse 2, refrain, bridge, and finally, refrain with a twist.

In the first verse, you introduce the idea enough that the refrain will make sense when people hear it for the for first time. In the second verse, you expand on the idea, giving more depth and detail before returning to the refrain, reinforcing the emotional impact of it. The bridge is usually a short section that changes the timbre or focus of the song in an interesting or unexpected way, building an emotional tension that releases in the final refrain. But most times, the final refrain has a twist that sets it apart—maybe the instruments drop out or the melody shifts slightly—but it’s still the refrain, still reinforcing the memorable and powerful hook that resonates after the song is over.

Great songwriters know how to take the elements of verse, refrain, and bridge and weave them together in ways that capture and keep the listener’s attention and moves them along an emotional arc. And it’s the refrain that holds it all together. Sounds like a great approach to message prep, too.

3. Passion is key.

This one almost goes without saying, but when I think of great songs, passion is a key element. If the songwriter doesn’t feel something deeply about the subject matter, it’s not going to be a great song. The same is true of a great message.

If you’ve chosen a passage or a topic that doesn’t excite you or make you angry or incite hope or something, don’t speak on it! Or, find someone who is passionate about it and listen to them for a while. (Passion is contagious.) Or, think about the topic or passage from another angle until you get passionate about it.

We all express ourselves in different ways, so I’m not saying that passion is going to come out of all of us the same. But it’s easy to see if the person who’s speaking cares about what they’re saying or not. By the time you reach the moment you begin to speak, you should feel like you’re going to explode if you don’t get a chance to say what you came to say.

If you’re not passionate about it, change it—talk about anything else. Or, call your worship leader and tell him or her that you’ve decided to have an extended worship time on Sunday. I’m sure your congregation wouldn’t mind if you stood up and talked for 5 or 10 minutes about something you feel passionate about rather than ramble on for 40 minutes just because “you’re supposed to” or because “it’s what’s next in the series.” I’m all for message planning and calendars (I was a worship leader for 13 years), but I’d rather listen to someone who’s passionate about something than just someone who planned to speak on something. Give us passion, please!

4. Rhythm, tempo, and volume matter.

As I’ve said before, we all have different styles and ways of communicating. I’m not advocating for a certain style here, just reminding you that if you want to connect with people emotionally, keep them engaged, and move them to a place where their core beliefs are exposed and challenged, rhythm, tempo, and volume matter.

I’ve spoken in public hundreds of times, but I still rehearse (at least the key sections). I’ll tweak and practice my phrasing and wording over and over to get the rhythm right. It might be making sure that I leave enough space between statements or that a powerful section builds quickly enough or that I’ve found just the right word to complete a section. Obviously, all of this is done in submission to God’s Spirit, but the way you deliver the message God has put on your heart is a skill and an art that He can use to bring real change. I’ve seen it happen…and I’ve experienced it myself.

And in your delivery, it’s not about finding the one thing that works. It’s about using all these tools to communicate the idea at hand. Great songwriters can compose a hopeful, driving tune one day and crank out a gentle, heartfelt ballad the next. Don’t lock yourself in to one method or style. Experiment with how quickly you speak and how loud or soft you are throughout each message. The right tone, the right rhythm, can be the difference between holding and losing the attention of your listeners.

All of these ideas—arc, refrain, passion, delivery—are ways to think about crafting a message. In all of it, remember that you’re just a vessel, a carrier of God’s Spirit. People are going to feel what you communicate during a message more than they are going to remember what you say. So please, please don’t settle for an alliterated outline when you could move people emotionally, challenge and expose their assumptions and beliefs, and watch as God transforms them through the power of His Spirit and His Word.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Finkill

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

5 Characteristics of Transformative Small Groups

As culture drifts more and more toward individualism, transformational churches are taking on the responsibility of moving people into authentic relationships with each other, many through the instigation and encouragement of small groups. Though a hermeneutically responsible scriptural case cannot be made specifically for the institute of small groups, the Bible does offer examples of the need for and benefits of small units of community.

In Exodus 18, Jethro approaches Moses and says, “What you’re doing is not good . . . You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people” (Ex. 18:17-18). The principle here is applicable for pastors, church leaders, and members: when people do not have small units of connection and relationship, it wears everyone out – the pastors and leaders because they are constantly working to fulfill that need for connection; the members because they are unable to be in the nurturing relationships that they need but cannot necessarily have with pastors or leaders. Similarly, small units of community allow people to “carry one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) in a way that simply is impossible in large group settings. Therefore, Scripture favors small settings for accomplishing genuine community.

In addition to scriptural favor toward small units, the institution of small groups addresses significant cultural needs. In Bowling Alone, sociologist Robert Putnam explains the shift in our culture away from community and toward “cocooning.” Think about it. People used to bowl in leagues. They’d wear funny shirts, go in groups, and bowl together. Now, leagues are a fraction of what they used to be, and people bowl alone. Similarly, while we used to have front porches, now we have back decks. We have home theaters and home gyms. As a result of this societal shift, the nuclear family is nuclearized into small units, disconnected from others along the way. However, I believe a shift back toward interpersonal relationships is taking place.

Why is this shift happening in the church? Because small groups are meeting the needs of people to grow in faith by learning in a community with some purpose. We want and need to be connected– it is not good to be alone– so that we can grow and help one another.

Most of these needs can be best met in small groups, where people are able to mature in their faith as they respect, appreciate, listen to, and hear those in community alongside them.

Though Christians experience the need for authentic community, they often need nudging to acknowledge and live in the reality of that need – not unlike many of us who understand our need for exercise, but require encouragement to participate and, thus, enjoy the benefits! In the church setting, small groups provide an opportunity to encourage people into life-changing community. However, the significance of small groups goes beyond the benefits of personal life change and becomes crucial for the transformational church. Five important facets of small groups demonstrate their transformative nature:

1. Connectible: Small groups connect people in relationships. According to William Hendricks in Exit Interviews, one common reason given by people who leave churches is a failure to connect in relationship. Small groups provide a comfortable environment for newcomers to connect.

2. Reproducible: In human growth, multiplication allows the cell to become multiple cells, which allows change and growth to occur. Similarly, for growth to occur in the church, people groups must continuously grow and multiply. Small groups are more easily multiplied than large groups.

3. Assimilative: Just as small groups connect newcomers to the church through relationships, small groups assimilate members to ministry through service. As people in small groups grow in relationship together, they will readily serve alongside others and integrate into ministry opportunities.

4. Transformative: Small groups allow individuals to experience faster and deeper personal transformation through authentic community. For non-Christian seekers, small groups provide a safe setting to ask questions in a community of people who also wrestle and struggle. Thus, when they do come to faith in Christ, they are more likely to experience authentic life-change having been in and remaining in community.

5. Transferable: Small groups can be excellent ways to start churches. As an essential element of the transformational church, church planting generally necessitates a core group of people who are sent out to reach a new area.

Small groups provide the transformational church with an opportunity to connect members in genuine relationships. Through interpersonal relationships, small group members will experience life-change as they fulfill their need for community in an individualistic society. Ultimately, as small groups grow and multiply, so will the church.

Read more from Ed here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

New Research: Less Than 20% of Churchgoers Read the Bible Daily

Statistically, you can see a recurring pattern: Bible engagement is directly related to spiritual growth.

While it may be possible to become a “better person” by attending church, it is not true spiritual growth. New life in Christ, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, are regular Bible engagement is evident in the lives of growing believers.

God’s Word is truth, so it should come as no surprise that reading and studying the Bible are still the activities that have the most statistical influence on growth in this attribute of spiritual maturity. As basic as that is, there are still numerous churchgoers who are not reading the Bible regularly. You simply won’t grow if you don’t know God and spend time in God’s Word. Bible reading won’t make you a Christian and you can’t grow without the power of the Spirit, but engaging the word deeply matters.

However, if tangible life changes are statistically related to Bible engagement in the life of a disciple of Christ, why aren’t more reading and studying the Bible?

We’ve released new research as part of the Transformational Discipleship study that shows only 19% of churchgoers personally (not as part of a church worship service) read the Bible every day. That is roughly the same as those who responded “Rarely/Never” (18 percent). A quarter of respondents indicate they read the Bible a few times a week, and 14% say they read the Bible “Once a Week” while another 22 percent say “Once a Month” or “A Few Times a Month.” (Note that “churchgoers” does not mean “born again” or other things– just what is says. We will look at more on that in future research releases.)

From the release (read the full story here):

While the majority of churchgoers desire to honor Christ with their lives and even profess to think on biblical truths, a recent study found few actually engage in personal reading and study of the Scriptures.
“Bible engagement” is one of the eight attributes of discipleship identified in the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by LifeWay Research. The study produced the Transformational Discipleship Assessment, which measures an individual’s spiritual growth in each of these areas of development.

The survey found 90 percent of churchgoers agree “I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do,” and 59 percent agree with the statement: “Throughout the day I find myself thinking about biblical truths.” While the majority agree with both statements, there is a significant difference in the strength of agreement. Nearly two-thirds of churchgoers (64 percent) strongly agree with the first statement, but only 20 percent strongly agree with the second.

While these stats might seem disheartening, we did identify six things that led to increased Bible engagement:

  1. Confessing wrongdoings to God and asking forgiveness.
  2. Believing in Jesus Christ as the only way to heaven and the number of years one has believed this.
  3. Making a decision to obey or follow God with an awareness that choosing to do so might be costly. Sixty-three percent of churchgoers say they have at least once in the last six months.
  4. Praying for the spiritual status of people they know are not professing Christians.
  5. Reading a book about increasing their spiritual growth. Sixty-one percent of churchgoers say they have in the last year.
  6. Having been discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian.

Bible Engagment Art.jpg


These findings on Bible engagement are part of the largest discipleship study of its kind. Results from each of the eight attributes of spiritual maturity will continue to be released over the coming months.

To help pastors, churches and individuals measure spiritual development, LifeWay Research used the study’s data to develop a questionnaire for believers, called theTransformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). This online evaluation delivers both individual and group reports on spiritual maturity using the eight factors of biblical discipleship. The TDA also provides helpful and practical suggestions on appropriate next steps for spiritual development.

Read more from Ed here.

Download PDF

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Previously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN. He serves as interim pastor of Moody Church in Chicago.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
 
— Glenna Hendricks
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
 
— winston
 
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
 
— Russ Wright
 

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