The passion of every pastor I know is to help people reach the destination they were created for, even before they were born – to be like Jesus. The question becomes “How?” – what is the most effective approach to make this a reality in people’s lives?
I have the privilege to involved in the largest body of research ever done on this very topic.<1> It simply asked people what has moved them forward in their spiritual journey. Instead of guessing, we now know the answer. With over 650,000 responses and counting, two major learning emerge –
The #1 catalyst for spiritual growth is Bible engagement with no close second.
No matter what segment of the spiritual continuum people identified themselves (Exploring to God to Christ-centered), they all cited engagement in God’s Word as the key experience that moved them closer to becoming like Jesus. Nothing else comes close. I was born at night, but not last night. With this kind of intel, we need to put the majority of our energy in this space.
Here is the second major takeaway from the research –
The #1 thing people want from their church is to help them understand the Bible.
For years I have tried to be clever and creative with sermon series and titles. There was one season where I developed all my teaching from popular TV shows. Turns out, the people just want what I was trained to give them – practical teaching from the Bible that will help them live out the life God intended for them.
But let’s be clear – Bible engagement means more than just hearing our sermons. Engagement requires more than passive listening from a pew or even a digital device. Engagement requires something of the learner. They must to be invested in the process with a desire to be changed from the experience.
I came across a study a few years ago on how we form or break habits. Let’s take a person who wants to quit smoking –
- If a person tries to quit smoking on their own their statistical changes of success are zero.
- If that same person adds an effective tool (say a nicotine patch) their chance of success inch up to a mere 5%.
- If that person adds community to their efforts their chance of success jumps to 40%.
The same is true with forming a good habit like engaging the Bible. We need an individual to engage with an effective tool in community. So, as pastors, when we design our programs to help our people, we need to think of these three integrated design elements.
- A biblically based sermon series linked to –
- An individual study plan linked to –
- A small group experience.
These three components blended together make for an effective strategy that promises to ignite spiritual movement within your people.
This is the exact design behind my new Bible engagement series. Here we are trying to get down to brass tacks on what it means to Think like Jesus, Act like Jesus, and Be like Jesus. Each set contains eight lessons. You can do them back to back or take them one at a time with breaks in between. An individual can do them on their own, but it will create serious momentum in their lives if they experience it in a small group. What will take it even to another level is for your church to sync it up with a sermon series on the same topics.
I have found when you offer up these kinds of integrated experiences to the congregation it really does catalyze their spiritual growth. And because this is what they want most from their church, I have found in all cases, it grows your church.
The urgency for this application has never been greater. I recently read a report from the Cultural Research Center.<2> Here is what they discovered –
- 7 out of 10 Americans claim to be Christian.
- Only 6% of Christians hold to a biblical worldview.
- This represents a 50% decline in the last quarter century.
- Only 2% of people 18-29 years old hold to a biblical world view
We don’t need an expert sociologist to tell us what this free fall means. We are only one generation away from historical Christianity, as we know it, becoming extinct. We can choose to be discouraged by this or we can let this motivate us to action. This is our time in history to be leaders and shepherds. Let’s declare together, “Not on our watch!” Let’s give the people what they most need and what they most want – to engage God’s Word so they can be like Jesus!
The Believe Bible Study Series helps you answer three questions: What do I believe and why does it matter? How can I put my faith into action? Am I becoming the person God wants me to be? As you journey through this series, whether in a group or on your own, one simple truth will become undeniably clear: what you believe drives everything.
<1> The results are covered in a series of books in the Reveal series including Follow Me, by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins. (Willow Creek Resources, 2008)
<2> American Worldview Inventory 2020 – Initial Report Dangerously Few Americans Possess a Biblical Worldview, Inaugural CRC Study Finds. Dr. George Barna, Director of Research, Cultural Research Center Released: March 24, 2020