What is the most effective way to grow spiritually?
There is a process—a formula, if you will—that, when followed, leads to spiritual growth 100% of the time.
Let me show you.
GOD wants us each to look like Jesus. That means that we think like Jesus, speak like Jesus and behave like Jesus.
In this process, changes us from what we look like prior to being reborn into the image of Jesus.
In the post entitled "Be Scripturally-effective," I explained that churches should actively seek to do things:
- according to the Scriptures, and...
- in the most effective way possible.
Therefore, churches should be actively pursuing the most effective means of helping Christians grow to become more like Jesus.
And this is the best way to make that happen.
Ready for it? It's quite simple:
Participation ➕ A Willing Heart ➡️ Spiritual Growth
It's that simple.
But as the old saying goes, the devil is in the details.
Let's break this down a bit.
A Willing Heart
In order for anyone to improve, grow, or get better at any aspect of their life, it takes work.
It takes practice.
It takes persistence and dedication.
Athletes must train and practice daily in order to succeed.
Our relationship with GOD takes persistence and a firm faith that the Reward is worth the chase.
Since you're reading this, I assume that you're interested in spiritual things—either that or you've searched Google for a graphic like the one above and inadvertently landed here.
But seriously, in order to grow, we've got to first be willing to work at it.
Participation Unlocks Our Growth Potential
The second component of the formula is participation.
Spiritually, participation means different things depending on the context.
For example, when we read an instruction in the Bible, such as, "Love your neighbor as yourself," participation means we practice incorporating the instruction into our life.
When it comes to reading the Bible, participation has to do with engaging our heart and diligently trying to listen to GOD speak to us, personally, through His word. Participation means being attentive to His message.
When it comes to prayer, participation means fellowship, with us laying our heart bare before GOD. The opposite of participation in prayer is just speaking a series of meaningless words and phrases with no emotion, feeling or effort.
In terms of serving others, participation is doing what's needed.
It's serving in whatever capacity I am able, with a willing and joyful heart.
The opposite would be a grumbling, bitter attitude of resentment, lazily avoiding an opportunity I could participate in, or failing to have love in my heart toward the one I'm serving (or failing to serve).
Participation in Church Assemblies
But what about in terms of the church? What would participation be there?
The specifics vary somewhat depending on the arrangement and size of the congregation, but in general, it's being engaged and involved.
Most congregations that I know of have regular periods of Bible study which enable open discussion and study of the Scriptures. This is a great way to enable and facilitate participation.
Prepare and speak up as you have opportunity.
When led effectively, Christians enjoy and grow significantly during these interactive studies.
Larger congregations often break into smaller groups for these Bible studies.
This is done partly in an effort to offer choices for topics or texts to be studied, and partly to facilitate increased discussion.
Many people are simply more comfortable and more likely to participate in smaller group settings. And, smaller groups enable individuals to participate more without feeling as though they're dominating the conversation or inhibiting others' ability to participate.
If interactive Bible studies are so effective, why do churches lean so heavily on sermons?
Most churches follow their Bible class period with a more structured, formal "worship service," of which the sermon comprises the centerpiece. For most, I would venture to say the reason is simply tradition—it's what they've always done.
For these so-called "worship services," only a select few men actively participate, with the majority of people just listening for the most part.
Oh sure, they may sing a few songs, but largely they are left to "worship" silently in thought, listening to prayers and a sermon.
I've listened to probably a few thousand sermons.
Many of them were insightful and helpful in learning.
Many were not beneficial at all.
Some even put me to sleep.
I don't know about you, but I would much rather engage myself more actively, participating in a discussion of Scripture and listening to thoughts and ideas of others.
Since 2010, I have been part of a church that meets in our home.
By design, our assemblies are interactive and participatory in nature, and the results have been astounding.
Without exception, every person in the group has experienced strong spiritual growth.
We do not find ourselves watching the clock, falling asleep or secretly hoping the time would pass by quicker.
It's not because we're special or some super-Christians. It's because we each have willing hearts and are participating.
And the result is that we build one another up.
What is the opposite of fun?
Most people tend to think it's work, but that's not it.
The opposite of fun is actually boredome.
GOD designed our minds and bodies to be active. When we are active, we are healthier.
This is why sports are so enjoyable—they engage the mind while allowing our muscles to be exercised.
Likewise, board games such as chess, jigsaw puzzles, or even video games are all so enjoyable to many people because they engage our minds, causing time to pass by quickly and we draw enjoyment from them.
Spiritually speaking, that's what participation with one another does for us, as we study the Bible, discuss its meaning and share life experiences with one another, all in an effort to help us each live more godly lives.
And this is why the formula works.
I highly encourage you to actively seek ways to participate and encourage your congregation to do things in the most Scripturally-effective manner, which facilitates participation.
As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.
(Prov. 27:17 NIV)
Let me conclude with another interesting participation-related phenomenon that our church has observed repeatedly during our assemblies.
A person can sit quietly, entirely emotionless and soon after they begin talking, such as sharing a thought or reading a Scripture, they'll become emotionally moved while speaking.
What's even more amazing is that this phenomenon happens to even first-time visitors.
Now, this doesn't happen every time someone speaks or even assembly assembly, but it does happen often enough that I am confident that it is directly related to participation.
If I were reading this and hadn't witnessed it myself, I'd be very skeptical and perhaps even think the writer were crazy or a part of some very "charismatic" congregation.
Neither is the case.
There's no show being put on at all. Quite the opposite, actually.
It's simply the effect of participation on a willing heart. Well, that and perhaps the Holy Spirit working. ;-)
What about you? Have you noticed the value of participation in spiritual growth?