Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth
Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson
Move is the story of churches and people and their quest to become and make disciples. It is our fundamental challenge as Christians to grow more Christ-centered, and to walk with others along the way.
Traditionally, this has been shaped like the Church, and it is in this context that the authors of Move started their extensive research and came to their identification of the key catalysts to spiritual growth and how the local church can be vital in encouraging and supporting this growth.
Two hundred and fifty thousand individuals from one thousand and seven churches have taken part in the REVEAL survey, an effort to encourage congregational spiritual growth by learning about the activities, spiritual practices, and leadership that most successfully brings people nearer to Jesus. These results have been studied, examined, and carefully ordered to give church leaders an idea what specific actions or ideas help people to move from Exploring Christ through Growing in Christ and Close to Christ and finally to Christ-centered. People in each of these four segments are characterized by attitudes in common with others in their segment, and share some surprisingly similar traits in how they transition from one segment to another. The authors found themselves surprised when they began being able to predict certain responses for each segment in later churches they surveyed – the trends were so clear.
Other trends that stood out in the research included those who are stalled in their spiritual growth and/or dissatisfied with the church’s role in their spiritual development. Among the 250,000 people surveyed, they found that one in four people fit into one (or both) of these groups – and, again, they found some common themes of how people in these groups can help themselves move out of them, back onto the path of growth.
What is the answer? How can BelPres encourage spiritual growth?
Overwhelmingly, the researchers discovered that growth happens when people are reading and reflecting on the Bible. In each movement from one segment to another, and for those who are stalled and dissatisfied, the number one catalyst for getting “unstuck” or deepening personal discipleship was studying Scripture. And the church’s role? To quote the statement from the questionnaire, “Help me understand the Bible in depth.”
The most helpful part of Move is the examination of what Best Practice Churches are doing to help their constituents grow and draw closer to Christ. The surveyors found that they could break down spiritual vitality into three general practice areas in order to determine which churches were being successful in creating an atmosphere for growth and discipleship – personal spiritual practices (eg. reading scripture, prayer), faith in action (service inside and outside the church), and the church’s role (structures inside the church to equip and support members in discipleship). If all three of these were strong, the church was considered a “Best Practice” church, and the researchers made a point to sit down with the leadership of these churches to find out what they were doing to create such a strong atmosphere for spiritual growth. In those interviews, they found some common trends:
They get people moving. This means creating a pathway for spiritual growth.
They embed the Bible in everything they do. They “bleed Scripture.”
They create ownership. The people see themselves as the ministers of the church – they ARE the church.
They pastor the local community.
BelPres already pastors our local community well. We are strong in acts of service and being Jesus’ hands and feet on the Eastside and beyond. But how are we with these other trends? This is the conversation we would like to encourage to happen. How can we better get people moving? We refer to Scripture a great deal, but how can we communicate its importance to our congregation? We believe that our church is full of ministers of the gospel, but how can our church leadership best encourage each one of our congregants to grab hold of that reality?
We encourage you to pick up Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth, and read it, looking for ways that you can move along the pathway of discipleship, and how you can help to guide others in their spiritual growth. Let’s start the conversation. Let’s MOVE!
This book is available in the BelPres Library. See our online catalog, listing over 5,000 resources, here.