A few years ago, Willow Creek Community Church–the megaChurch that brilliantly leads the way in tackling many of the toughest issues facing churches–produced a study of their own congregation. They wanted to know how they were doing in their effort to make disciples. That’s a critical question since making disciples is the very nature of the commission we’ve all been given.
After surveying their congregation of thousands, they invited hundreds of churches and thousands of people to participate in the survey, and the results were more than a little surprising, even unsettling. Chief among the discoveries was that the typical things churches do–hold worship services, offer small groups, encourage people to serve in the church–were not effectively moving people forward in their relationship with Christ, especially those who had reached more advanced stages of discipleship.
The point wasn’t that we should stop doing what we’re doing. The typical activities of the local church did have some positive impact, especially on those in the earlier stages of discipleship. Instead, the point was to highlight what did move people forward. There was one spiritual activity that effectively moved people forward regardless of their level of spiritual maturity–reflection on Scripture.
The study showed that those who read the Bible for themselves and sought ways to apply it to their lives continued to move forward in their life as a disciple, no matter what stage of the journey they currently were living. Those who failed to develop a regular habit of pursuing God’s Word often became stuck or dissatisfied with their spiritual life and would change churches, become complacent, or give up their pursuit of Christianity altogether.
Of course, the study revealed that there are are many other valuable ways to keep people moving. Pastors and church leaders will find this book quite insightful and helpful to their efforts of discipleship.
If you want to read the study, the book is titled, Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth. It’s written by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson–two members of the Willow Creek staff. It’s a great read with lots of information and examples of ways to keep your people moving.