December 30, 2014

By Phil Maynard

Encouragement to Take Personal Responsibility for Spiritual Growth
(Part 5 of Top 5 Things People Need from the Church to Grow as Disciples)

As people move toward maturity they should become less dependent on the local church to provide for their spiritual growth. They should begin to take responsibility for managing their own journey. They should begin to feed themselves!

Isn’t that what we all hope for with our own children? That they will develop the skills to feed and clothe themselves?

The strong tendency in the Church seems to be around providing the fertile scriptural soil for growth, but often without the kind of trellis or frame that tender spiritual shoots need to give them a meaningful direction. We do semesters of classes with a wide variety of Bible Study offerings. We provide the best and newest of the DVD Bible studies. But what people want and need from us is not just another big-name Bible Study or some news-relevant topic or self-help guide with some Bible verses thrown in for reference. What they really want is for us to teach them how to feed themselves.


At this point in the blog it is obligatory to quote the infamous Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.” But think about our discipleship strategies from that perspective.

What difference would it make if we taught these classes:

  • How to Study the Bible and apply the principles to your life (rather than just absorbing a popular author’s take on the scripture, real tools for independently diving into the Word more deeply).
  • How to Listen to God through Prayer (specific techniques for listening for God’s voice rather than our filling all of the holy conversation with a recitation of our wants and woes).
  • Discerning God at work in our Community and Lives (interacting with our daily environment with a Spirit-powered radar for God’s presence and possibilities).
  • Finding guidance for life through prayerful discernment (using prayer and scripture as a path to practical wisdom).
  • Loving others like God loves them (developing a deeper perspective to see each person living with their full potential as a child of God).
  • Discovering how God has wired you for ministry (understanding that everyone has a uniquely gifted role to play and being diligent about learning your own role).
  • Living a lifestyle of worship (embracing a moment to moment communion with God rather than a once-a-week scripted encounter).

How game-changing would it be if we sent empowered disciples out to put these spiritual skills into action instead of expecting them to keep coming back for just another feeding time? These are the reimagined strategies that can produce leaders and grow disciples who (as a natural part of their mature discipleship) will begin producing other disciples. These are the confident and competent followers of Jesus who will change their communities and the world.

What changes can you see such a shift in strategy producing in your own local faith community? What frustrations in disciple formation do you routinely encounter that might be addressed by such a shift? Use the comment section to share your thoughts.