Be a Church That Wants to Go Deep with God

Lately there’s been a lot of talk about spiritual formation and discipleship, and rightfully so. I think we can all agree there’s a discipleship deficit in evangelicalism. Perhaps the elephant in the room is that there isn’t a whole lot of discipling going on, even though that’s precisely what we, as Jesus’ followers, were commissioned to do.

So leaders are asking questions like, “What should we do?” and “How should we do it?” There are plenty of successful models that have been tried in a variety of contexts. But how can we best make disciples right where we are?

What if, before buying the latest discipleship book, we looked to Scripture to find out what God says about discipleship? In this series of articles, we’ll look at four discipleship principles found in God’s Word:

  • Maturity is a goal for disciples.
  • God wants you and your church on a clear path toward spiritual growth.
  • God involves us in our own growth, as well as our church’s growth.
  • God calls you and your church to be spiritual leaders.

Moving toward Maturity

First, we have to recognize that maturity is the goal of discipleship. Keeping people spiritually immature is never a stated goal, but we seem to be achieving it.

Part of the problem is in the way we sometimes see the maturing process. We should not treat depth and maturity as an enemy. Being deep in the faith is not about being full of obscure details or minutia. Being spiritually mature does not mean you have graduated out of the daily grind of faith, grace, and mercy in a fallen world.

True spiritual depth is about understanding the Word of God and living out its truths. That should be the goal for all of us.

Fear of the Deep

I’m sure there are some who are afraid of maturing too much—to a point where there’s a chasm between them and the lost. We always want to communicate at a level that is accessible to the unchurched, but that doesn’t mean we should remain immature or shallow for the sake of connectivity.

If we have low expectations for discipleship, we end up with churches that are an inch deep and a mile wide. Our task is to keep things simple without engaging in “simplism,” which is when we make something so simple it loses its essential value.

After “leaving the elementary message about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity,” the author of Hebrews tells us (6:1, HCSB). That doesn’t mean we should become better Bible bowl contestants. This isn’t about gauging our walk with Christ by how many cities we can locate on a map of Israel. It is about becoming more complete disciples.

So our challenge is to keep the communication simple while not passing on a simplistic approach to the gospel. It is a balancing act for sure—but more than a balancing act. It is only through depth and maturity that we will truly find better methods for communicating the gospel.

A truly deep experience will not move us away from the ones we are trying to reach. It will move us toward them.

We can’t be too deep in the faith, but we can be too shallow. God will not bless shallowness when a deeper walk is available. An elementary approach will not produce mature disciples.

Measuring Maturity

A LifeWay Research study on discipleship (Transformational Discipleship) found that of the people we studied, only 3.5 percent of the people surveyed over the course of a year had any measurable growth. In other words, only 3.5 percent of people reported that there was something different in the way they engaged the Word of God, shared Christ, or served others.

But over 55 percent had perceived that they had growth spiritually. Now, I’m not saying they didn’t grow. But I think a lot of people think they’re growing spiritually when they are actually stuck at those elementary teachings and need to move on to deeper things.

In the area of discipleship, as in other areas of life, we sometimes want something so much that we begin to think we’re doing better than we are. Therefore we must be vigilant to regularly evaluate and measure where we are in the growth process if we are to be serious about our own discipleship.

This isn’t a new problem, nor is it simply an issue for the American church to consider. The early church had to deal with the same thing. In 1 Corinthians 3:1–2 Paul writes, “I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food, because you were not yet ready for it. In fact, you are still not ready.”

How do we help people move on and move forward from milk to solid food? We see this theme over and over again. In Hebrews 5:11–12 we find that the believers still “need milk, not solid food.” In that passage, we also find laziness at play in those who are immature.

As a person grows spiritually, they will be more active in the ministry of God, not less. If you find a person who is not interested in being part of the mission of God, you have likely found a stalled disciple.

Reaching the Goal

So, we want to move people from spiritual immaturity to maturity. That’s the goal. And we want to know that growth is actually taking place and is not just imagined.

How can we make sure we are going deeper? It starts with culture. Be a church that wants to go deep with God. Provide ever-increasing opportunities for people who want to go deeper in spiritual formation.

I’ll give you an example: I had a gentleman in my church recently say to me, “I’d like to go deeper.” And in our church, I think we try to preach in a way that’s both accessible to the unchurched and theologically robust. But he wanted me to go deeper, and I love that.

“Let’s do this,” I said. “Why don’t we start reading a systematic theology together?” And so we broke out Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. He bought a copy. I bought a copy. We started reading.

There are many things that go into a successful discipleship ministry, but one key is that spiritual maturity must be a goal. And if we don’t teach the goal and preach the goal, we won’t reach the goal.

Don’t shy away from maturity. The enemy wants us to remain like babies, never strong enough to be about the mission we’ve been given. Embrace the shovel. Go deep. And remember, there is no need to exchange numerical growth in our churches for the spiritual growth of its members.

What distractions are keeping you from setting and achieving the goal of spiritual maturity? How do you measure spiritual success in your own life or in the lives of others?

> Read more from Ed.

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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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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Leaders Must Understand the Reality of Spiritual Transformation and Design for Growth

Church leaders must craft opportunities where people will encounter the grace of God. Simple church leaders are designers, not programmers. They excel in designing a ministry process that leads to spiritual growth and vitality.

Spiritual growth is a process. It always has been. Thus, it would make sense for church leaders to design their churches around the process of spiritual growth.

In 1 Corinthians 3, believers are called God’s children (v. 1), God’s field (v. 9), and God’s building (v. 9).

  1. We are God’s children. We begin as spiritual babies because we are born again (John 3:3). Our movement into spiritual adulthood is a process. That process is critical. Just as babies need the right environments to grow physically, people need the right environment to grow spiritually.
  2. We are God’s field. Fields do not bear fruit or crops on command. They blossom in process, and to do so properly, they need the right environment and the right nutrients.
  3. We are God’s building, God’s spiritual house. He first built us (created us). He then bought us back (redeemed us) with His own blood. Next, He moved in. He took up residence in our lives. And He is not done. He continually works on us. He is constantly redecorating. Continual transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Our wives and the Holy Spirit have a lot in common. It is not enough for our wives to move into a home. That is only the beginning. Redecorating is a must. And this is not a one-time redecorating. It keeps going and going.

The same is true with the Holy Spirit. Continual work is inevitable. It is never done. It is a lifelong process.

Children, fields, and buildings grow in process. They do not mature overnight. They are not built in a day. They are constantly redecorated.

Children, fields, and buildings need the right environments to facilitate the process of growth. Children need nurturing, touch, food, and love. Fields need water, care, and farming. Buildings need workers, materials, and someone like Ty.

Simple church leaders get this.

Not only do simple church leaders understand that spiritual transformation is a process, but they also respond to this reality. They do so by implementing a ministry process to facilitate this spiritual growth in people. They design a simple process and abandon everything else. They rely on their simple process to create the environments conducive to spiritual growth.

Read more from Eric here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has 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, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

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New Research: Maturing Believers Exercise Faith, Trust

LifeWay Research has released a new research brief on maturing believers. Here are the details:

Believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity are more likely to exercise their faith by trusting God even in difficult circumstances, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

“Exercising Faith” is one of eight attributes of discipleship that consistently show up in the lives of maturing Christians. The attributes are part of the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by LifeWay Research.

Among the eight attributes of discipleship tested, churchgoers have higher scores for Exercising Faith than any of the other attributes, said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. Yet, he pointed out, only 13 percent of attendees were able to give the best response to all of the questions in this attribute.

“It is easy to say God has a purpose for everything in life, but it requires faith to enjoy seeing His plan unfold in difficult times,” Stetzer said.

Additionally, 86 percent agree they “express praise and gratitude to God even in difficult circumstances.”

Seventy-eight percent disagree that, in the midst of difficult circumstances, they “sometimes doubt that God loves me and will provide for my life.” Fifteen percent agree they sometimes doubt the love of God and His provision.

The survey shows the longer someone has trusted Christ as their Savior, the better their responses are for exercising faith. Being involved in a Bible study group, praying for Christians and non-Christians, and witnessing to nonbelievers also make a positive impact…

The survey also reveals those stronger in their faith are less prone to doubt God’s involvement, even in unexplainable circumstances. Just 9 percent agree with the statement: “When things happen in my life I can’t explain, I typically doubt God is involved.” Eighty percent disagree with the statement.

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

To learn more about the transformational discipleship research visit LifeWayResearch.com. The TDA is available at TDA.LifeWay.com.

You can read the full release with methodology 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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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Using a New Transformational Discipleship Tool in Your Church

Have you found yourself wondering if your church is making authentic disciples?  Or ever will?  Have you recognized that a lot of what passes for discipleship is really about information and behavior modification?  If you’re ready for a new approach, you might want to take a look at the Transformational Discipleship DVD.

I recently reviewed the challenging new book by the same name, written by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley, and Philip Nation.  Intended to guide church leaders through a discussion and then start conversations that lead to implementing the principles, the DVD provides a catalyst that will help teams focus and engage in a process that could bring change and foster a culture in which people genuinely grow in Christian faith.

A four session study, the segments average 30 minutes in length and feature teaching by the authors along with panel discussions.  An included viewing guide and discussion starter questions make it easy to implement; creating an opportunity for the kind of experience that will lead to new discipleship possibilities for your church.

Used as a companion to the book, the DVD is a resource that will move your team in a new direction as you re-imagine discipleship in your congregation.  Session one provides an overview of the project as well as key learnings from experts in the area of discipleship.  Sessions two, three, and four provide additional insight into the key concept of the book, the transformational sweet spot (formed by the intersection of truth given by healthy leaders to someone in a vulnerable posture).

I’ve found the discipleship question, “How do we truly make disciples?” to be one of my most common questions.  Watching the segments of the Transformational Discipleship DVD, I found myself thinking that this is a resource that will help jump-start a new conversation in many churches.  Sure to generate the kinds of discussions that could change the trajectory of your congregation, you’ll want to take a look at the Transformational Discipleship DVD.

Read more from Mark here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Howell

Mark Howell

I’m the Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m also LifeWay’s Small Group Specialist. I’m the the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. In addition, I’m the guy behind MarkHowellLive.com, SmallGroupResources.net, StrategyCentral.org and @MarkCHowell.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Introducing Transformational Discipleship

If you’re looking for discipleship resources that will give direction to your approach, Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow by Eric Geiger, Michael Kelley and Philip Nation ought to be on your reading list.

A research driven project, the book is based on the discoveries of an extensive research project launched by Lifeway in 2010 “to survey believers about their spiritual lives and level of maturity.” Specifically, the research was designed “to uncover what kind of discipleship is truly transformational.”  Building on the Transformational Church survey and the research behind Brad Waggoner’s book The Shape of Faith to Come, the research focused on “major areas of life where spiritual maturity takes place.”

The combined research identified eight attributes of discipleship that point to spiritual health; biblical factors that consistently show up in the life of a maturing believer.  The eight attributes are:

  • Bible Engagement
  • Obeying God and Denying Self
  • Serving God and Others
  • Sharing Christ
  • Exercising Faith
  • Seeking God
  • Building Relationships
  • Unashamed

In addition to the eight attributes, a key discovery of the research is referred to as the Transformational Sweet Spot.  Using the metaphor of the sweet spot on a tennis racket or a baseball bat, the transformational sweet spot is formed by the intersection of truth given by healthy leaders to someone in a vulnerable posture.

There are a number of very good aspects to Transformational Discipleship.  The first 63 pages provide a thorough theological overview of the concept.  This is essential reading for a church staff or leadership team.  Parts 1, 2, and 3 provide an insight packed examination of the individual ingredients of the transformational sweet spot.

Not intended as a model, the authors instead have assembled the kind of thinking that just might uncover the framework that makes authentic disciples; not just knowledge or moral behavior, but the “ongoing renewal of the heart.”  Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Transformational Discipleship is resource that will absolutely open your eyes to new ways of thinking about how transformation happens and where to focus your design and effort.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Howell

Mark Howell

I’m the Pastor of Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, Nevada. I’m also LifeWay’s Small Group Specialist. I’m the the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, offering consulting and coaching services that help churches across North America launch, build and sustain healthy small group ministries. In addition, I’m the guy behind MarkHowellLive.com, SmallGroupResources.net, StrategyCentral.org and @MarkCHowell.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

New Discipleship Research: Selflessness Leads to Spiritual Maturity

Throughout the year, we have been releasing new research in support of Transformational Discipleship. This latest research is on “Serving God and Others”– one of eight attributes of discipleship that consistently show up in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity.

Service doesn’t just happen in a church. It must be modeled and encouraged. As we look at the breakdown of attributes and correlated disciplines, the data shows that praying expectantly, getting involved in the community and discipling others fosters a posture of serving. As such, disciples are serving in, through, and beyond their churches for the cause of Christ.

Service and activism have become popular in our culture today, especially among younger adults. However, most of this benevolent activity is fairly low-level involvement that does not cost the giver much. The midrange responses on the Serving God and Others attribute reveals lots of good intentions and some occasional actions but much lower intentionality, consistency or sacrifice.

Serving clearly impacts growth, and the study shows that individuals who have positive scores for Serving God and Others have higher scores in the other seven attributes of the Transformational Discipleship study, as well.

For example, scores for Sharing Christ jump 24 percent when individuals have positive Serving God and Others’ scores and 51 percent for individuals with the highest Serving God and Others scores. Likewise, positive responses in the other seven attributes of discipleship correlate with higher scores in Serving God and Others.

Growth leads to service and serving leads to growth – it’s deeply connected. Positive scores in Bible Engagement result in a 17 percent increase in scores for Serving God and Others compared to those who do not have positive scores for Bible Engagement.

We saw most say they were serving in some way, but far too many are sitting down on the job – particularly when the Bible says everyone should ‘…use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God’ (1 Peter 4:10; HCSB). There is a huge gap between this passage and most churches’ practice.

From the release (read the full article here):

The survey shows 58 percent of Protestant churchgoers in the United States agree with the statement: “I am intentionally putting my spiritual gift(s) to use serving God and others.” Seventeen percent disagree with the statement.

A greater percentage of respondents indicate they look for opportunities to serve others in the community. Asked to respond to the statement: “I intentionally try to serve people outside my church who have tangible needs,” 60 percent agree – although only 17 percent strongly agree. Fifteen percent disagreed with the statement.

Churchgoers indicate much lower agreement related to sacrificial giving. Just 9 percent of churchgoers strongly agree with the statement: “I intentionally give up certain purchases so I can use that money for others.” Thirty percent somewhat agree and 32 percent disagree.

Approximately a quarter of respondents selected “neither agree nor disagree” as their answer for the three statements.

I shared a pre-release version of this data at the Q Conference, which was focused on serving other for the common good. Statistically, growing Christians serve and serving Christians grow. Sojourners reported on the data here. I’m encouraged to see the statistical connection, but am not surprised considering the biblical connection.

These findings on serving God and others 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 the Transformational 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.

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.

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Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Obedience is Not an Easy Decision for Believers

Throughout 2012, we have been releasing groundbreaking new research from LifeWay Research’s Transformational Discipleship study. In the study, we were able to identify eight attributes which consistently show up in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity.

The latest data released focuses on the need to make personal, sacrificial decisions in order to better obey Christ, or as we have titled it “Obeying God and Denying Self”. The study found that less than one-third of churchgoers strongly agree they are following through in specific aspects of obedience.

From the release:

The survey reveals 64 percent of churchgoers agree with the statement: “A Christian must learn to deny himself/herself in order to serve Christ.” Nineteen percent disagree with the statement.

The survey measures confession of sins and asking God for forgiveness as one component of ‘Obeying God and Denying Self.’ When asked how often, if at all, they personally “confess…sins and wrongdoings to God and ask for forgiveness,” 39 percent indicate every day and 27 percent say at least a few times a week. Eight percent of respondents say they rarely or never confess sins and wrongdoings to God and ask forgiveness.

Sin was not only addressed after the fact – the survey also asked individual churchgoers how proactive they are in avoiding sin with the statement: “I try to avoid situations in which I might be tempted to think or do immoral things.” Three-fourths agree with the statement, but only 32 percent strongly agree. Ten percent disagree, and 16 percent responded indifferently.

The survey also examines an individual’s inclination to adjust their attitude through the statement: “When I realize my attitude does not please God, I take steps to try to fix it.” More than 80 percent agree with the statement, but only 32 percent strongly agree. Fifteen percent neither agree nor disagree, and four percent disagree.

Actions that can positively impact the scores of individuals on the Obeying God and Denying Self attribute were identified as:

  • Attending a worship service;
  • Making a decision to obey or follow God with an awareness that choosing His way may in some way be costly;
  • Being discipled or mentored one-on-one by a more spiritually mature Christian;
  • Reading the Bible or a book about what is in the Bible;
  • Praying for the spiritual status of unbelieving acquaintances;
  • Setting aside time for prayer of any kind.

Obeying God and Denying Self is also the only one of the eight attributes of discipleship that was predicted by more frequent worship attendance.

These findings on obeying God and denying self 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 the Transformational 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.

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Process >

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

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Spiritual Disciplines

“The spiritual disciplines” sounds like a phrase for another era of history. Whenever a book is written or a sermon is preached on the subject, people wonder if it is a subject only for ancient saints or a group of monks cloistered away in a mountain retreat.

The spiritual disciplines, however, play a significant role in our spiritual development. They represent practices of our faith that give us the opportunity to interact with Christ.

To better understand them, LifeWay Research conducted a survey of over 2,900 Protestants in the U.S.A. using English, French, and Spanish. In the book Transformational Discipleship, the authors Geiger, Kelley, and Nation describe a “discipleship deficiency” that is plaguing the church. Given the research, I agree with their descriptor.

On a daily basis, only 48% “set aside time for prayer of any kind” on a daily basis. Even fewer – 19% — are reading the Bible on a daily basis. There is simply no good light in which to cast these discoveries.

So how do we address the fact that Protestants in the U.S.A. who attend church at least once a month (the basic requirements for participation in the survey) are not engaging in the most basis spiritual disciplines.

First, leaders must lead by example. I am one to give those in ministry leadership the benefit of the doubt. But I also believe in a high level of accountability. If a leader wants the people to read, pray, fast, and all the rest, then make sure you are doing it as well. The vision for spiritual maturity in a church will rarely exceed that of the leader’s life. So go where you want to take people.

Second, find ways to practice the disciplines in community. There is an old saying about leadership: If you are leading and no one is following then you are just out for a walk. Don’t walk alone toward spiritual maturity. Discover the various ways to lead people. The list is endless. Read the New Testament together over the summer months. Memorize a key passage that is follows the theme of a message series and repeat it during worship. Commit to a church-wide fast while making key decisions. Often the spiritual disciplines are misrepresented as exclusively practiced in solitude. Make sure they are used to draw the body of Christ closer together as well.

Thirdly, never measure disciplines as an end to themselves. For the sake of research, we measured people’s behavior at relatively broad level. As a local church leader and/or member, you are called to a deeper engagement. Over the last three years, we have studied the issue of transformation in the lives of Christians throughout North America. Our study gives conclusive evidence that lives, churches, and communities are being changed… but not without leadership and effort.

In the Transformational Discipleship study, an attribute that was discovered has been termed “Unashamed.” One of the issues we have known intuitively came hurtling out of the research: believers willing to publicly own their faith and have accountability for growing in their faith display lives of transformation. It is to this end that we create assessment tools to survey personal development. Whether you use a tool or simple conversations, you need to measure personal advancement.

Leaders need to grow, lead through community, and hold followers accountable. Using the spiritual disciplines as instruments for spiritual growth provides a great platform to do all of these.

This article first appeared in Facts & Trends, a free magazine from LifeWay. You can sign up for a free subscription 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

What say you? Leave a comment!

Mr. Steven Finkill — 11/06/12 1:28 pm

I love this article. My struggle with the whole spiritual disciplines conversation is always that it's hard to have a conversation about them that doesn't lead to a to-do list and a "should" factor rather than a "want to" factor. That's why I like Ed's third point above. We can't measure disciplines as an end in themselves. They are only helpful if they lead to real life-change. That's the only time they matter. And, I think, that only happens when I approach them from a "want to" perspective rather than a "should" perspective. But maybe that's just me.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
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