Grow you Good Thing!

The good people at Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago have cracked it – they have worked out what actually causes people to grow as Christians.  Hold on – I know.  It is the Holy Spirit.  Let me be more specific than.  They have worked out what things that churches do cause the people in their churches to respond to the Holy Spirit, and grow.

Willow have been doing large-scale research since 2004, and have last year published some very interesting results.  Earlier this year I blogged about how merely involving people in church programs does not help people to grow closer to God.  This was the conclusion that some of Willow’s early research uncovered.  And it came as a bit of a blow to a church that has some of the most attractive and well run church programs in North America.

Recently I have been reading one416Dr1ENFsL__AA160_ of the follow-up works that they have published.  It’s called Move.  The researchers (who are now surveying over 1,000 churches, not just their own) have come up with a list of the things that help people grow as Christians.  As you would expect they are many and varied.  They range from evangelism, tithing to understanding salvation by grace alone.  Some of these catalysts, as they like to call them, help new Christians a lot.  Others help mature Christians more significantly.  But the number one thing stands out a mile.  This is what they say, by way of a helpful illustration:

“If your local ice cream parlour could sell only one flavour, it would sell vanilla.  This isn’t just because vanilla ice cream is the most popular flavour, although that is true.  It’s because vanilla ice cream is hugely popular: in fact, it’s twice as popular as the second favourite flavour, which is chocolate. … So your ice cream parlour would choose vanilla.  Hands down.  No contest.

“Church pastors have an equally compelling option.  If they could only do one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship with Christ, their choice would be equally clear.  They would inspire, encourage and equip their people to read the bible – specifically to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives.

“Reflection on Scripture is the spiritual equivalent of vanilla ice cream because its influence on spiritual growth far exceeds the potential impact of other catalysts…Hands down.  No contest.  When it comes to spiritual growth nothing beats the bible.”

Now you might respond, “Ah yes – my church makes a priority of good bible teaching.  We are likely doing well.”  If that is the case then you have missed the point.  The main driver of growth is people reading their bibles on their own.

So – how are you going with your bible reading right now?  Because if you are someone who wants to grow closer to God then it’s the one thing most likely to get you there.  Been a Christian a short time?  Read the bible if you want to grow.  Been a Christian a long time?  Read the bible if you want to grow.

And if you are leading people, then the number one question is, “How are you helping your people get into their bibles?”  Because if you can do that, then they are highly likely to be growing.  If you are not doing that then there might be good things happening here or there but you are denying the people the most powerful source of growth around.

Obviously there is more to being a Christian than reading and reflecting on your bible.  And there is more to Christian leadership than helping people read their bibles.  But it’s hands down the best place to start.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews knew what was going on: “For the word of God is alive and powerful.  It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow.  It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Heb 4:12)


One Comment to “Grow you Good Thing!”

  1. Wonderful! As someone trained in Bible scholarship, a Bible teacher and Bible-phile I am encouraged that research supports what I have always taught. Thanks for spreading this around!

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