Planning toward Spiritual Growth

In my work as a United Parcel Service supervisor, I have seen that company leaders know the business they’re in and that they have measuring tools that indicate whether company actions are leading them on the right path. Usually a company’s most important measuring tool is the financial bottom line—the $ indicator of whether or not they are making a profit.

In contrast to the use of measuring tools in the business world, consider the measuring methods that take place in the local church. As a body of believers we have the greatest mission in the world—to introduce people to Jesus and see Him transform their lives. The spiritual stakes are extraordinarily high. Yet we don’t have a great way to measure life-change.

Measuring spirituality can be tricky. Leaders of two well-known mega-churches once assumed that if they built large buildings and set scores of ministries into motion, these actions would correlate with spiritual growth. However what they discovered is that they had been measuring the wrong things.

Spirituality is an abstract concept, and it looks different in different people. That being said, spiritual development is too important to leave to chance. So what do we do? For starters, we put down on paper what we’re after. There’s something about putting plans on paper that moves them from theory to reality. If we’re serious about life-change, we have to specifically write down our spiritual action plan. The road we’re on determines our destination.

In Scripture God has given us actions that a follower of Christ will take. I’ve applied those actions to identify steps for someone who comes to our church to grow spiritually. As I discuss spiritual growth, it’s important to keep the following thoughts in mind:

First, doing these things will not make you spiritual; however, a spiritual person does these things. None of us ever wants to be accused of being Pharisaical. We don’t want to imply to people in our church that they can check off lists and view their spirituality as somehow arrived. The status of people’s hearts is the important distinction.

Second, identifying the characteristic actions of a follower of Christ helps make growth measurable. This is going to force your church to face reality, which is a good but scary proposition. By identifying these actions, you’ll have an idea of how you’re progressing as a church and where you’ll need to spend your time in helping people grow spiritually.

Next, this is not an exhaustive list. I don’t have the market cornered on following Jesus, nor do I have the discipleship process neatly packaged. But there’s enough in this process to challenge every person in your congregation for a long time.

Last, what I’ve identified is for every Christian. Brand new followers of Christ and long-time Christians will be able to identify exactly what their next steps should be.

So here’s our process. It doesn’t have a lot of flair, but it provides next steps for every individual and it is measurable. The key to these steps is the marrying of a heart attitude with a literal action in a specific place. These steps are intended to be sequential; however, sometimes the order changes.

Action steps that promote spiritual growth
1. Put God at the center of your life: attend Sunday worship consistently.
Usually people’s first step toward God or their first step away from God can be measured in their attendance.
2. Reveal God to others: participate in a community-outreach event.
As soon as person becomes born again, sharing their faith should be a natural part of the growth process. Usually a new believer’s world is made up of unbelievers.
3. Apply God’s principles to your life: attend a small (community) group.
A small (community) group is one of the best places for people to get connected. This is where people do life together at ground zero.
4. Make an impact with your life: serve in a ministry.
This is more than just contributing to the local body of Christ; it is about living with an eternal perspective.
These steps have levels of depth. Consistently attending Sunday worship is a great way to begin the process of putting God at the center of your life, but it isn’t the end-all. Those who are already fulfilling these steps with the right heart will find they can go deeper within each specific step in their own spiritual journey.

If someone is already doing the four steps with the right heart attitude and wants to pursue the next step, other spiritual markers can be determined from Scripture. Potential next steps for the core actions are listed below.
Put God at the center of your life:
Spiritual disciplines
Tithing
Sacrificial giving
Making room for God (time)
Teachable spirit
Desire to please God
Baptism
Membership (commitment to the body)
New-believer discipleship (one-on-one)
Reveal God to others:
Learn to share the gospel
Invite friends to church
Lead an outreach event
Host an outreach event
Host or lead an outreach Bible study
Apply God’s principles to your life:
Make a meal
Visit someone in the hospital
Send a note of encouragement
Care for those in need
Pray for others
Mentor someone
Get training
Strengthen your family relationships
Subdue your physical body (addictions, fitness)
Renounce sin
Attend and be involved in “Body life” stuff (e.g., church Christmas party)
Make an impact with your life:
Develop your spiritual gift
Take a missions trip
Lead a ministry
Host a community group
Lead a community group
Develop ministry personnel
Help the needy
As you form your own strategy for making disciples, here are good questions to keep you on target:
1. What do you want people to become?
2. What do you want people to do?
3. Where do you want people to go
Remember: the road we’re on determines the destination!

Daryl Neipp, Associate Pastor, Program Development
New Community Baptist Church
Avon, Ohio

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