Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth (Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson)
Most of you are familiar with Bill Hybels and his famous Seeker Sensitive Church and movement. A few years ago Bill and his leadership team conducted a congregational survey designed to identify the connection between church involvement and spiritual growth. The study revealed to them more than they were prepared for. Reluctantly they had to admit that over the years they had done quite well in getting unchurched people to come to church and leading those people to Christ. What they had not done too well was actually turning those new believers into growing Christians. This finding completely altered the focus and direction of their church.
Eventually they took their survey on the road and the results of their findings made up the book MOVE.
The book MOVE is based on a survey called Reveal. After 5 years of studying over 280,000 in-depth responses from congregants in 1200 churches they discovered four categories of church attenders found in most churches.
1. Those who are exploring Christ.
2. Those who are growing in Christ
3. Those who are close to Christ
4. Those who are Christ centered
What Reveal… revealed was the things in common churches have who are successful in producing growing Christians have and how they MOVE people from category 1 all the way to category 4.
Here are my favorite quotes from the book which I hope will inspire you to read this important book. Here’s some quotes:
Our goal was to find out which of the many activities and programs we offer delivered the greatest spiritual growth in our people. In other words, we wanted to identify which activities were most effective in helping people grow in their love of God and love of others.
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 did quite well—but helping them engage the Bible on their own outside of church.
Church activities do not predict or drive long-term spiritual growth. More precisely, increasing church attendance and participation in organized ministry activities do not predict or drive spiritual growth for people who are in the more advanced stages of spiritual development. Church activities have the greatest influence in the early stages of spiritual growth, but things like personal spiritual practices, including prayer and Bible reading, have far more influence later in the spiritual journey.
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.
Our study revealed that churches that are successful in producing genuine spiritual growth in the lives of their people share these four practices:
Practice 1: They get people moving. Instead of offering up a wide-ranging menu of ministry opportunities to newcomers, best-practice churches promote and provide a high-impact, nonnegotiable pathway of focused first steps—a pathway designed specifically to jumpstart a spiritual experience that gets people moving toward a Christ-centered life.
Practice 2: They embed the Bible in everything. At best-practice churches, the Bible goes well beyond its role as the foundation for teaching and life instruction. These churches breathe Scripture. Every encounter and experience within the church begins with the question, “What does the Bible have to say about that?” And church leaders model living life according to the answers to that question.
Practice 3: They create ownership. Best-practice congregants don’t just belong to their church; they believe they are the church. They embrace its discipleship values as part of their identity. Best-practice churches inspire and hold people accountable for changing their behavior—for becoming more Christlike in their everyday lives as a reflection of their faith.
Practice 4: They pastor their local community. Best-practice churches don’t simply serve their community. They act as its shepherd, becoming deeply involved in community issues and frequently serving in influential positions with local civic organizations. They often partner with nonprofits and other churches to secure whatever resources are necessary to address the most pressing local concerns.
These churches are led by individuals consumed with making disciples. Absolutely consumed.
One of REVEAL’S most significant findings: participation in church activities does not necessarily drive spiritual growth.
One of the most unexpected things we learned from REVEAL was that those who are growing in Christ not only desire, but expect to be challenged.
The most surprising finding from our research is that involvement in church activity does not predictably translate into increased levels of spiritual maturity.
1. Never let the passion to serve eclipse a commitment to personal spiritual disciplines.
2. Don’t confuse high levels of service with qualifications for Christian leadership.
The church is the most significant organized influence on spiritual growth, so participation in church activities naturally emerges as an important catalytic factor.
Clearly, we must do much more than simply suggest that our congregants get into their Bibles on a regular basis. We need to teach this as a necessity. Insist on it. Follow up. Challenge our congregations to reflect on the Scriptures week after week.
Every Congregation Needs Consistent, Intentional Encouragement to Communicate with God on a Daily Basis
As leaders, we need to help people learn to turn off the noise and tune into God’s voice.
What our research revealed is that people experience a deepening of their love for Christ, which seems to occur as the result of two outside-the-church activities: (1) a daily immersion in their personal spiritual practices, and (2) stepping out of their comfort zone in favor of increased outreach efforts.
Church leaders need to be crystal clear that the number one goal for their congregants is to help them grow into followers of Jesus Christ. That’s easy to say. But it’s very hard to do, even if everyone in your congregation says, “Sign me up. I’m in!” The long haul of spiritual growth is challenging, and it’s very difficult for people to persevere, putting aside worldly temptations day after day to walk through life as a follower of Christ. Also, it’s hard for churches to hold them accountable. Like doctors, church leaders can tell people how to lead healthier lives—they can even be role models of a Christlike lifestyle—but they can’t make people adopt and live up to a new set of life values.
If your local ice cream parlor could sell only one flavor, it would sell vanilla. This isn’t just because vanilla ice cream is the most popular flavor, although that is true. It’s because vanilla ice cream is hugely popular; in fact, it’s twice as popular as the second favorite flavor, which is chocolate. In turn, chocolate is twice as popular as any other ice cream flavor available. So your ice cream parlor would choose vanilla. Hands down. No contest. Church pastors have an equally compelling option. If they could do only 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.
When people are spiritually stalled, it’s not unreasonable to suspect they might also express dissatisfaction with their church,
10 percent of all churchgoers say they are “unsure,” “probably,” or “definitely” leaving the church in the near future, but the large majority (80 percent) of those individuals fall into the “unsure” camp. And among this 10 percent, we find the dissatisfied group is well represented. Still, by far the majority of those who are dissatisfied express no desire to leave. In fact, 63 percent of those who are dissatisfied and 79 percent of those who are stalled say they intend to stay at their church. And remember, even among those who fall into the 10 percent who are considering leaving the church, most of them (80 percent) remain “unsure.”
Our findings suggest that if a church were to focus exclusively on these two objectives—helping people develop a personal relationship with Jesus and helping them understand the Bible in depth—they would not only address the issues that are important to the dissatisfied people in the congregation, they will address the needs of the church congregation as a whole, irrespective of a person’s spiritual maturity.
The “10/10” covenant, which means they commit to: Read the Bible for ten minutes a day. Pray ten minutes a day. Connect with ten people in a small group. Pray for ten people to accept Christ.
Typically, when a ministry leader or pastor meets his or her counterpart from another church, a question that is nearly always asked, within the first minute or so, is, “How big is your church?” We want to know how many people attend the church, and whether consciously or unconsciously, we use the answer to do a quick evaluation of the competency of the pastor or leader we’re talking to. A small number creates one impression; a large one, another. To tell the truth, we esteem the leader of the larger church more than that of the smaller. It’s not right, but that is what we do.