The Single Thing that Leads to the Greatest Impact on Spiritual Growth

As I try to develop my own discipleship strategy, I am wrestling with many questions.

  • How do I develop a discipleship strategy that works with unbelievers as well as believers?
  • I have a limited amount of time. The people I disciple have a limited amount of time. Where is the best investment of time?
  • Reproducible discipleship is simple discipleship. If it isn’t simple, it isn’t reproducible. My disciples will learn how to make disciples by how I make disciples. I have to keep it simple. What is both powerful and simple?

Over the past few days I’ve been reading part of the book MOVE which is about the REVEAL study Willow Creek did with their own church and over 1,000 other churches comprising over 250,000 congregants. In the forward to that book Bill Hybels says:

“Here’s one simple yet profound fix that came from this survey. We learned that the most effective strategy for moving people forward in their journey of faith is biblical engagement. Not just getting people into the Bible when they’re in church — which we do quite well — but helping them engage the Bible on their own outside of church.”

In Chapter one as the authors summarize their findings, they say this:

Nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than reflection on Scripture. If churches could do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice is clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible — specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives. The numbers say most churches are missing the mark — because only one out of five congregants reflects on Scripture every day.

That is a very significant statement. Nothing. “Nothing has greater impact than…” And of course it makes total sense. We knew that didn’t we? So why is it true that few people actually read the Bible? According to a 2013 survey by the Barna Group, only 21% of Americans read the Bible 4 times a week or more, and 61% of Americans say that they wish they read the Bible more.

But there is an important hint there in that quote as well. It is not just about reading the Bible. The thing that has such a huge impact on spiritual growth is reflection on scripture. At one time I was enamored with reading through the Bible in a year programs and later with Neil Cole’s Life Transformation Group (LTG) system that includes reading 30 chapters of scripture a week. My disappointment with those systems is that setting a goal for reading x numbers of chapters a day or a week often results in more reading and less reflection.

Furthermore, there was a surprising endorsement of discipleship from the world’s largest “seeker-sensitive” mega-church.

…we identified one overarching leadership principle that emerged in our interaction with the senior pastors of these top-5 percent churches. These churches are led by individuals consumed with making disciples. Absolutely consumed. Making disciples of Christ was unquestionably their most important aspiration and the deepest desire of their hearts. And that characteristic fueled all four of the practices you will learn more about.

As I read that I couldn’t help but think of Steve Murrell and his book Wikichurch which I just wrote three blog posts about. This exactly describes Steve and the team he has nurtured at Victory Christian Fellowship, which I think is obvious from what I have written.

So the question I’ve been tossing around in my mind is this. How do we get both believers and unbelievers engaged with the Bible, both reading it and reflecting upon it? I’ve come across a couple of great ideas over the past few days that I will write more about on Monday.  Have a great weekend!

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