I have wondered over the last few years if WDA should publish our Guided Discussions as a ebook. Could we actually deliver a meaningful experience for our customers who might not want to carry a book to their group.
One younger leader mentioned that he was excited about the new workbooks we publish for Cornerstone but after looking at the format said, “when are you going to create a ebook version. None of the people I work with will bring a book to small group but all of them have their iPhone®.”
I was also talking to a friend who is creating curriculum for church leaders in Africa, and as we talked he mentioned that there are many challenges to creating and publishing materials for their ministry partners. Our International staff has taken digital pdf books or even hard copies of materials to people by hand.
As you can see printing materials in many countries is very challenging. Not only is it a challenge it can be costly.
Because WDA’s mission is to serve the church worldwide, we are always looking for new ways to deliver our materials and training to as many people as possible. I think ebooks is a good option for some people! So what do you think?
Just this week we published all the books that are part of “Cornerstone” in a Kindle format. You can now get Getting Started, Knowing God, Understanding People and Growing Spiritually to use on your device.
At this point we are offering them for Kindle, which can be also used on other devices that use the Kindle app as well.
They are available now on Smile.Amazon.com. There are both student and leaders editions available for you and your church to use.
If you want to know more about these books, please visit our WDA store, and read about them.
You can then follow the link to the smile.amazon.com website, where by buying with Smile.amazon, Amazon will give a portion of your ebook purchase to WDA as a charitable gift at no cost to you!
We hope you like the Cornerstone books in the Kindle format. We are also working on versions for epub/ibooks. Please contact us if you desire those formats as well.
What is Amazon Smile? By logging into smile.amazon.com rather than the regular Amazon.com site you can choose Worldwide Discipleship Association as a charity and Amazon makes donation to WDA with each purchase!
Learn more about the program and how to choose WDA by following this link. WDA Amazon Smile
Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier faced off in the 3rd matchup of their boxing careers. The previous meetings had them tied one win each. In what was an amazing fight, Ali won by technical knockout in the 15th round. The bout is ranked in the sport as one of the best in the sports history.
WDA sent a team of five men to the Philippines this April, and it was a “Thrilla” as well. For over the last nine months WDA has been establishing a relationship with a ministry partner, James Tioco (pron ch-eo-ko), who leads a ministry called Sowers of the Word (S.O.W). James had contacted WDA after reading many of our books and looking at our website. He believed that WDA had the comprehensive approach that would serve the church in the Philippines. Our Exec VP and C.O.O., David Partfitt, began a dialogue over the phone and by Skype which allowed us to learn about them and them about us. It was clear that James wanted to see WDA help him roll out a discipleship ministry. So this brought us nine months later to our trip to Manila.
David Parfitt, Dan Horne (WDA Board Chairman), Woody Johnson (WDA Board Member), Jeff Pritchett (Chick-fil-A), and I (WDA Church Staff, Atlanta Arts Coordinator, Publishing Leader) began to develop a series of presentations for church and ministry leaders, denomination leaders and ministry partners. We flew to Manila April 27-May 7, and over a week introduce the ministry of WDA to a limited number of people who we hoped would pray, lead and/or volunteer to be WDA trainer of churches. From the beginning, we realized that James could have gathered hundreds of leaders to a one day “training” but we wanted to be strategic in our launch. Limiting the numbers would allow James and Sowers to have a manageable number of people to train.
On Monday and Tuesday we did full-day “orientation” meetings in which we discussed the need for discipleship, the priority of the local church as the vehicle for disciple building, the process, biblical foundation, and our Biblical Framework and the Five Initiatives of Disciple Building, R-CAPS®. Each day closed with a challenge for them to pray, lead a new or existing group using our approach, and/or also be willing to become a WDA Trainer to train churches and ministries to use our approach in their context.
Wednesday we met with potential ministry partners who would commit to pray and fund the ministry of WDA Philippines (Sowers). Our team also spent Wednesday morning meeting with the Philippine Bible Society (PBS) who will be our in-country publishing partner. They will be printing and translating our materials for use beginning in Manila, then to other areas as God provides people and opportunity.
Our last day was a full day with the Sower’s ministry, discussing next steps, strategy and reporting on the results of the earlier meetings. We left the meeting with lots of energy and ideas for how we could move forward.
We were a bit overwhelmed by the many churches and pastors who already were committing to train other trainers. Many were already making plans to begin new groups or multiply existing groups and use our WDA approach and materials. They desired training as soon as possible and wanted to know what materials were ready now! We had financial backers who wanted to know more details and what would be needed to fund this initiative. James said that his phone was full of text messages each night following the meetings as people were responding very positively towards our orientations and vision.
It is by the grace of God that our work in Manila is happening now. Even a few years ago WDA would not have had the ability to move forward with this type of initiative in the way we are able to do today. Over the last two years we have redesigned and printed books for our country and have the ability to take the exact same English materials and have the Philippine Bible Society adapt our format to one which is more suitable in size and affordability for the church there. After being on the ground and talking to leaders, hearing from James and his team, we are positioned to provide materials and training to over 700 people in just this first stage.
We begin by providing leadership training and materials using WDA’s Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework and A Small Groups Manual. PBS will also print all of our Cornerstone (Phase 1 and 2) materials. Leaders will be using Pocket Principles® and Guided Discussions, and the students will get a version that has just the Pocket Principles®. The partners at PBS were very helpful as was the Sowers team in helping us decide how to configure our materials specifically for them.
The churches want to launch their new groups as soon as possible, so we have a goal of 30 days to get new materials in their hands. Our publishing team and the PBS will be working hard in the next few weeks to get books reconfigured and to their printing press. We will also spend these weeks providing short video training segments that Sowers will use to begin to follow up from our orientation and prepare leaders to launch discipleship groups using Getting Started. Over the next 12-18 months, they will complete all of Cornerstone. WDA will continue to work with Sowers to provide training from the U.S. while planning for second trip to roll our Life Coaching Ministry and additional training.
There is the potential for us to see thousands of people building disciples in a relational approach which is able to be adapted for their churches. We have seen a hunger for discipleship as person after person who connected with our presentations also saw the need and understood how our approach to disciple building was progressive, biblical and flexible. We worked very hard to show that one size did not fit all, and that WDA could help them design and build specifically for their country and culture. One leader over hundreds of churches said to us, “You know you have started a fire here.”
We are overwhelmed by God’s providential work in bringing our team to the Philippines, creating a desire for Biblical discipleship, providing people and organizations in-country that are primed to move forward and provide the people and resources for this to go forward.
As of this date we have 81 prayer partners, 71 leaders of new Cornerstone groups, 59 new Cornerstone trainers, 125 new small groups beginning. 35 Youth Pastors trained by a participant using R-CAPS®. The Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship Board, approved our approach and ordered 50 copies of Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework Book.
We are humbled that God would use the five of us men to promote His work. This was not about us as individuals, but it was clear that God wanted to encourage these leaders that they and their church members can have a significant ministry to many people as they continue with us to fulfill Jesus’ commission to make disciples by going, baptizing and teaching to do all that He commanded.
Our team, while still feeling the Jet Lag, returned with great joy and thankfulness for the opportunity to be part of a launch of Disciple Building ministry with a great partner in Manila.
This certainly was a “Thrilla.” There will be much more work but also much more fruit from our trip.
Pray for James Tioco and Sowers of the Word and for us.
Pray for the hundreds of pastors who this very moment are beginning to share what they learned in our orientation.
Pray for the publication of materials, training of leaders and wisdom for next steps.
Thanks for those who pray for our ministry. God is at work all over the world bringing people to himself and raising up men and women in the church who are committed to helping others grow to Christ-like Maturity.
The quote above attributed to one of the early church fathers, while perhaps tongue in cheek, contains a significant element of truth. Our goodness (growth in holiness) depends on God, but it also depends on us. God will not make us good until we are ready and willing to partner with Him in the process. We have focused previously on God’s role in our spiritual growth and meditated on the magnificent resources available to us. Now, we turn our attention to the flip side of the equation and focus on what is expected of us. The truth is that the believer plays a significant role in his own spiritual growth.
Consider, for example, the building of a garden shed. You may think about what you want the shed to look like, and you may draft plans for the structure. You may even secure all the necessary tools and materials to build the shed. However, at some point you have to actually get to work⎜to saw boards and hammer nails or the shed will never get built. Successful completion doesn’t depend on your grand dreams or your good intentions. It comes about only through hard work. So it is with the Christian life. God has placed everything we need for growth at our disposal but, until we actually start to use what we have been given, we will not make progress.
Paul wrote to his young charge Timothy that he should train himself to be godly (1 Timothy 4:7). Paul uses an athletic analogy to convey to Timothy that effort will be involved. The Olympic athlete dedicates himself to countless hours of rigorous training, all the while refraining from otherwise acceptable enjoyments to maintain discipline, all for the sake of achieving his goal. So, too, the follower of Christ must engage in certain activities and refrain from others in order to achieve the goal of increasing Christlikeness.
A word of caution as we delve into this topic. The Christian life is a marathon rather than a sprint. It takes time to develop the endurance necessary to run a marathon. It doesn’t happen overnight. Some believers hear of great Christian saints who read many chapters of the Bible or pray for several hours each day. Inspired by their example and determined to imitate their dedication, they try to maintain the same habits. Rare is the person who can immediately achieve that level of discipline. Most of us never do. And that’s okay. As we will see below, God does call us to study His Word and to pray. But it is far better to start slowly and develop consistent habits than it is to try to do too much too soon and give up discouraged and disillusioned.
Dallas Willard writes in The Divine Conspiracy that, “It is much harder [to learn to pray] if we succumb to the temptation to engage in heroic efforts in prayer. This is important. Heroism, generally, is totally out of place in the spiritual life, until we grow to the point at which it would never be thought of as heroism anyway.”
Having said this, the truth remains that the degree to which a believer follows God’s instructions determines the degree to which he grows. Following God’s instructions is not always easy, but the fruit is of great value. As the believer engages in the following activities, he will grow spiritually.
Understanding and Applying the Word of God
Believers grow spiritually as they get to know God⎜His nature, His purposes, and His ways. And the Bible is the primary source God uses to reveal Himself to us. In order to get to know God better, a believer must understand the meaning of Scripture by hearing, reading, studying, memorizing and meditating on the Word. In His second letter to Timothy, Paul writes of the importance and value of Scripture in these words: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God’s way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, New Living Translation)
The author of the first Psalm paints a vivid picture of the person who delights in God’s Word and meditates on it frequently. This person will be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:2-3) What a beautiful picture of the outcome God desires to see in our lives!
It is important that our study of the Word never becomes an end in itself. The purpose of study is to learn and to grow, not just to gain more knowledge. There are people who know much about the Bible and have even memorized lengthy passages but who do not believe in the God of the Bible and have no interest in obeying Him.
James warned his readers against being hearers of the word only, saying that in so doing they were deceiving themselves (James 1:22). Jesus closed a lengthy address (commonly known as The Sermon on the Mount) to the crowd gathered on a hillside by giving the parable of the wise man who builds his house on the rock and the foolish man who builds his house on the sand. The wise man is the one who listens and obeys, while the foolish man listens but does not put into practice what he has heard (Matthew 7:24-27).
God has provided an open line of communication with believers through prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God, knowing that He is always available and expecting Him to respond to us in the way that best suits His purposes and is in our best interests.
However, prayer is not simply an option that we should resort to when we have exhausted our own resources. Rather it should be the natural response to any situation we find ourselves in. We should turn to God first, whether to ask for guidance, protection, provision, or whatever need we might have. Ephesians 6:18 tells us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Sometimes we may tend to make prayer harder than it needs to be. We don’t have to learn certain techniques, memorize complicated formulas, use just the right words, or adopt a particular posture. However, Scripture does provide a model for the kinds of things we should pray about.
Many of us are familiar with what is commonly known as The Lord’s Prayer. How often do we look upon this prayer as an actual example for us to follow rather than a fine piece of oratory to be recited or sung? We should remember that our Lord offered this model prayer in response to His disciples’ request for Him to teach them to pray.
This is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13)
The prayer begins with recognition of the exalted position of God and ends with recognition of our position of dependence. It is composed of two primary parts. The first section focuses on God as we acknowledge that we are speaking to our loving heavenly Father, worshiping His holy name (which represents His nature and perfect character), and asking that His perfect will be accomplished here on earth. The second section focuses on our needs, as we ask for daily provision, for forgiveness, and for spiritual protection.
Fellowshipping with Believers
One of the greatest needs of our day is for people to develop healthy relationships. God knows this and has provided for this need through fellowship with other believers. The restoration of our vertical relationship with God paves the way for healthy, mutually beneficial horizontal relationships with others. However, these relationships must be nourished through spending time together and celebrating the life we share in Jesus.
This is why Scripture tells us that we should not neglect meeting together with other believers. We need each other. The Christian life was never designed to be an individual pursuit. Regular fellowship with other believers provides comfort, accountability, instruction, encouragement, support, and direction. If a believer is not involved in a local church, he may develop distorted thinking, lack emotional support, feel insecure, and flounder without accountability.
Not only are we to spend time with other believers, we are to serve one another. Again, Jesus is our example. He told His disciples that He came not to be served but rather to serve others. Later He challenged them to serve others as He had served them (Matthew 20:28 and John 13:15).
Serving others is not simply something God thought up to help build character. Rather, service benefits both the giver and the receiver. It benefits the receiver by meeting a need. It benefits the giver by allowing him to experience the joy of seeing a need met and by enabling him to impact others. Along the way, we all have the opportunity to be on the giving end and on the receiving end, and we can find equal joy in each.
Most service to others is nothing heroic but simply involves everyday expressions of love such as offering a kind word of encouragement, giving someone a ride, providing a listening ear, fixing a meal, having a good attitude, or sharing what God is doing in our lives. Scripture emphasizes the “everydayness” of service by saying, “Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.” (Galatians 6:10, New Living Translation)
Recognizing The Centrality of Relationships
There is a common theme that runs through the four activities discussed above, and that is the strong cord of relationship. This should not be surprising as relationship is at the heart of the Christian life. We have a new relationship with God and new relationships with His people. Our relationship with God and our worship of God are at the core of everything we do. Without worship, study becomes mechanical and lifeless, prayer becomes self-centered and demanding, fellowship becomes forced and empty, and service becomes an onerous burden.
A believer will grow spiritually as he consistently studies the Word, prays, fellowships with believers, and serves others with genuine humility and a desire to please God. The four topics covered in this lesson by no means exhaust the opportunities for growth; these are simply the primary or foundational means of growth. Other disciplines that may prove helpful to the believer include silence, solitude, fasting, and frugality among others.
However, these foundational activities must be engaged in by anyone who is serious about growth. Although Scripture emphasizes that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), there are no shortcuts to Christian maturity. Scripture and the experience of saints through the centuries prove otherwise. It would be the height of folly for any of us to think that we will be the first to achieve maturity without effort.
The good news is that the ball is in our court. The October 1997 issue of “Today in the Word” relates that the great Scottish Bible teacher Alexander MacLaren once wrote: “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?” So we see, then, that the choice is ours. May each of us desire increasing godliness and use the keys we have been given.
• Read Psalm 1. What happens to a believer who becomes isolated from other believers and/or God’s Word? List the benefits of meditating on God’s Word.
• Read Romans 12:9-16. List ways a believer should demonstrate love to others.
Get this Pocket Principle in Growing Spiritually, part of Cornerstone from the WDA Store
Scientists marvel at the inter-connected nature of all living organisms. Though many stubbornly refuse to recognize the fingerprints of God in creation, they still speak in awe of the complex design of things they observe and refer to the delicate balance of nature. Because we are complex beings, understanding spiritual growth demands that we understand many components of our lives. To attain spiritual maturity the believer must grow in at least two dimensions of the Christian life— equipping and restoring. The equipping dimension prepares the believer to serve others on behalf of Jesus, in effect, to carry on His work, while the restoring dimension addresses a person’s emotional and relational health.
Historically, the church has focused primarily on the equipping dimension of the believer’s life and has not always recognized the need to minister to the whole person. This limited perspective of the church’s calling is a tragic misunderstanding that has hindered not only the growth of individual believers but also the ability of the church to impact the world for Christ. From our experience, we have concluded that healthy spiritual growth is most likely to occur when both dimensions (equipping and restoring) are addressed.
The Equipping Dimension Involves Growing In The Following Areas
Growth in knowledge of God, His ways, and His will
Knowledge of God, including His character, His ways, and His will is essential to spiritual growth. The Apostle Paul’s understanding of this principle led him to pray for the believers in Colossae as follows: “We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you might live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” (Colossians 1:9-10)
Paul’s prayer for these believers provides insight into the dynamics of spiritual growth. The more we grow in spiritual wisdom, the more we will live pleasing to God, doing the good things He desires us to do. This action leads to a greater knowledge of God and more spiritual wisdom. And so the circle of growth continues.
The knowledge of God that Paul writes about is interactive and experiential, not just an accumulation of information. An example will help make this point. A person can study the sport of scuba diving, can watch others scuba dive, and can even speak intelligently about scuba diving, but until he actually puts on the equipment and dives into the water, he is not a scuba diver. Similarly, many people who know much about what the Bible teaches, have not embraced the teachings of Scripture as truth in their hearts and put it into action. They may know about God, but they do not know God.
In addition, to grow spiritually, a believer needs to interact with other believers in a local church body. Paul in I Corinthians 12 makes it clear that believers, as members of the Body of Christ, are inter-dependent on each other. They are to express this inter-dependence by showing love for each other, learning from each other and praying for one another. This interaction with other believers can significantly impact the spiritual growth as the young believer is encouraged and provided with real-life models of the Christian life.
Another area that influences spiritual growth is the specific content of a believer’s learning. The early focus of learning needs to be centered on such subjects as God’s character, who Jesus is, and how to walk with Jesus daily. These topics are necessary for a healthy relationship with God and a strong foundation for further growth. As we grasp a basic knowledge of who God is, we learn how to please Him, and follow His leading. We gain this knowledge through daily interaction with God in the circumstances of life.
Growth in ministry skills and abilities (Mark 10:45)
As mentioned above, the point of acquiring knowledge is so that it can be put into action. One of the ways we act on our knowledge of God is to minister to others or, as Paul puts it, “bearing fruit in every good work.” (Colossians 1:10) In the early phases of the Christian’s walk, his focus needs to be meeting the practical needs of others (e.g. arranging transportation, cooking meals, etc.). We see this principle in the way Jesus taught His followers how to minister. When His disciples were new believers, Jesus gave them practical responsibilities such as dispensing food, providing transportation, controlling the crowds, and bringing their friends to learn about Him.
As believers grow spiritually, God often increases their ministry abilities and opportunities. This pattern is clearly seen in how Jesus trained His disciples. Although He began with giving them simple acts of service to perform, He gradually increased their responsibilities. He sent them out on their own to minister and gave them positions of leadership within the larger band of followers.
Growth in faith and trust in Christ (Proverbs 3:5-6)
A further area of equipping is growth in our willingness and ability to exercise faith and trust in Christ. Growth in faith means growing in strength of conviction and quickness to obey. Simply put, it means putting into action what we believe to be true. In fact, the putting into action is the proof that we truly do believe something to be so.
The point of acquiring knowledge is so that it can be put into action.
Some years ago, there was a tightrope walker who performed unbelievable feats high above the ground. A promoter offered him a substantial sum of money to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. The event drew large crowds of people, eager to see the daring (or folly) of this artist. When the moment came, the performer calmly walked above the rushing waters, to the wild cheers of the crowd. Then he walked across blindfolded. The cheers grew even louder. It appeared that the show was over, but the artist had one act left to perform. He had a wheelbarrow raised to the rope and, asked the crowd if they believed he could walk the wheelbarrow across the falls. The crowd responded enthusiastically. Then he asked for a volunteer to get into the wheelbarrow, and the crowd fell silent. All had said they believed, but none was willing to act on that belief. As Christians, we demonstrate our faith by a ready willingness to “get into the wheelbarrow.”
Growth in trust means applying our faith in more and more areas. It is one thing to recognize Christ as our only way of salvation and place our trust in Him as Savior. It is quite another to begin to trust Him in all areas of our lives. After all, we have grown up learning to be independent and to trust in ourselves—our knowledge, our abilities, and so on. However, as the writer of Proverbs reminds us, we need to trust in the Lord with all our hearts and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Admittedly, this is hard to do. But it is an important part of the maturing process. God, in His wisdom and providence, continues to bring circumstances into our lives that give us opportunities to trust Him and expand our faith. As we encounter these circumstances, God provides the resources to deal with them, as we take a risk and trust Him.
It seems that God sometimes gets us into tough situations just so we can learn to trust Him. The Bible certainly provides enough examples, whether it be Abraham standing over Isaac on the altar, the Israelites huddled on the banks of the Red Sea with the Egyptians in fierce pursuit, Daniel and his friends in the fiery furnace, Jesus’ disciples fighting a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, or any number of other events. One of the most important things that every Christian must learn is that God can be trusted, regardless of circumstances that would make it appear otherwise.
To really know God in this personal, real way, a believer must interact daily with Him and His Word and put the Truth into action.
The Restoring Dimension Involves Developing Emotional And Relational Health
As was mentioned earlier, it is critical that we also give attention to the restoring dimension of a believer’s life as well as the equipping dimension. Spiritual growth will not occur in many areas unless there is maturity in the restorative areas discussed below.
We need to develop emotional health.
Developing emotional health begins with learning to think correctly because emotions are a natural response to our thinking about, or interpretation of, the things that happen around us or to us. Thinking correctly involves both what we think (content) and how we think (process). Incorrect thinking is often based on an incorrect or inadequate view of ourselves, of others, or of God. These viewpoints or perspectives are largely formed in childhood and are influenced by the people and events closest to us. It is critical that we learn to counter falsehood with truth.
Consider the following example: A student receives a “B” on a test instead of the expected “A” and feels worthless. The “worthless” feeling is the content of his thinking. He arrived at this content, or conclusion, by the following thought process (beliefs that led to the student’s conclusion). First, “I must always be perfect in order to be valuable.” Second, “I made a mistake, and therefore I am not perfect.” Third, “Therefore, I am not valuable. I am worthless.” Both the content and the process need to be corrected. The key is to be able to identify where one’s thinking goes wrong or, to put it another way, to identify which proposition is not true. In the example above, the second phrase is true (he did make mistakes; he is not perfect), while the first and third are not. The student’s thought process starts on a false premise and inevitably ends with a false conclusion.
Along with learning to develop right thinking, we need to develop certain emotional skills if we are to achieve emotional health. These skills include learning to process emotions in the present and learning to process emotions that have been buried.
…emotions are a natural response to our thinking about, or interpretations of, the things that happen around us or to us.
We learn to process emotions in the present by being able to identify how we feel and express those feelings, even if they are unpleasant. It is often helpful to talk about your emotions with a trusted friend. Use words that describe how you feel. Say, “I feel . . . angry, sad, anxious, confused, embarrassed, secure, happy, relieved, daring.” Be as specific as you can and don’t use a “weaker” or “safer” word when a “stronger” one is appropriate. If someone has offended you, you may need to talk about your emotions in a controlled way with that person. Once you have processed your emotions, you need to release those that are negative. This release may mean choosing to forgive, if someone has offended or wronged you.
We need to develop relational health.
Developing emotional health rightly precedes a discussion of developing relational health, because relational health is impossible for a person who has not achieved at least some measure of personal emotional health. In order to be able to relate to another person in a mature, healthy way, you must first understand and be able to manage your own emotions. Or, to put it another way, until you are comfortable in your own skin, you are unlikely to feel comfortable around other people or unlikely to make them feel comfortable around you.
Skills necessary for relational health include the following:
Developing intimacy. Intimacy is the ability to connect with another person at a deep level. This involves sharing thoughts and feelings about yourself.
Setting boundaries. Boundaries are limits, or markers, that define a person as separate from others and help define what is unique about that person. Boundaries define what a person is, what he chooses, what he feels, what he likes, what he wants, and so on. A person needs to set his own boundaries and not allow others to set them for him.
Developing good communication skills. These skills include speaking clearly, listening carefully, and giving constructive feedback.
It is critical to a person’s spiritual growth that he develops both the equipping and restorative (emotional and relational) dimensions of his life. Spiritual growth is a life- long process. The important thing is to stay on the path and continue the journey. The good news is that these various dimensions of our being have a positive relation- ship to one another. As we grow in our knowledge of God, in service and in faith and trust, it will help us to grow emotionally and relationally. And as we grow emotionally and relationally, it will help us to grow in our relationship with God and service to Him. It is important to remember this truth⎯”He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” (Philippians 1:6)
Read Psalm 73. List the emotions described by the Psalmist. Describe how the Psalmist dealt with his emotions in this Psalm.
Read Matthew 12:9-15. How is Jesus’ ability to set boundaries tested in this situation?
Read John 2:1-11. How do you think this situation impacted the growth of the disciples?
Think of a situation in your life that is impacting your spiritual growth. Write down evidences of growth that are occurring because of this situation.
Get this Pocket Principle in Growing Spiritually, part of Cornerstone from the WDA Store
The story is told of a group of tourists who were touring a village. An old man was seated on a park bench, and one of the tourists asked him if any great men had been born in the small town. “No,” the man replied after a moment’s thought. “Only babies.” Just as no man or woman is born “great”, no Christian is “mature” immediately upon being born into the family of God. Each believer starts this new life as a babe in Christ. However, it is God’s plan for every believer to grow from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. He gives us the resources we need and provides a model for us to follow. We can understand the process of spiritual growth by examining principles seen in the life of Jesus.
The Goal of Spiritual Growth Is Christlike Character.
It is natural for the new believer to ask: “What does spiritual maturity look like?” The answer is that it looks like Jesus Christ. He not only is the object of our faith, but He is the object of our growth. From the beginning, God’s desire has been for those who believe in Christ to be conformed to His likeness (Romans 8:29). As we grow in Christ and become more like Him, those around us should be able to see His image reflected in us (2 Corinthians 3:18). This does not mean that we will become physically like Him with the same appearance, mannerisms, or manner of speaking. Rather, it means that we will become like Him in our attitudes and in our actions.
This is a lofty goal indeed and can be intimidating, especially to the new believer. However, it is important to remember that God provides us with more than the minimum daily requirements for our spiritual growth. In fact, 2 Peter 1:3 says that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Some Christians find this hard to believe, especially when they begin to experience challenges or frustration in their spiritual lives. And, sadly, there are sometimes people who mistakenly tell them that they don’t have everything they need⎜that to really grow they need something more. This “something more” may be a mystical experience, a special anointing from the Holy Spirit, a special degree of wisdom or knowledge, or something else. Regardless of how well intended this advice may be, it is a form of spiritual intimidation and should be rejected as such. Just as a healthy baby is born with all the parts it needs to grow and develop normally, so we are born spiritually with all we need to grow in Christ.
Spiritual Growth Occurs Gradually, in Phases
One error to avoid is thinking that God has not given us everything we need to grow. An equally dangerous wrong belief is that growth will occur overnight. Just as a newborn baby develops gradually and only after much nourishment and the proper care, so it is with the “babe” in Christ — the new Christian. We should expect to drink milk before we can eat meat, and to crawl before we can walk. God understands this better than we do, and He patiently works with us as He conforms us to the image of His Son. We see this principle illustrated in the approach Christ took with His disciples.
A careful study of the life and ministry of Christ will show that He was deliberate in the way that He related to and worked with His disciples. Because each of the Gospel writers recorded the life of Christ from his own perspective, it can be difficult to see a pattern simply by reading through the New Testament. However, when the Gospel accounts are combined into a chronological narrative, it is clear that Jesus taught His disciples things that were appropriate for each phase of growth, and that He moved them through successive phases. It is also clear that Jesus intended this pattern to be repeated as, before His return to heaven, He commanded His followers to make disciples in all nations, teaching the same things He had taught.
While people may label these phases differently, they can be described as follows:
1) Establishing Faith ⎜The necessary first step for anyone to become a disciple of Christ is to repent of his sins and former way of life and to trust in Christ as his savior. This event is referred to in Scripture as being born again (John 3). Regardless of whether a person comes to faith at age eight or eighty-eight, he becomes a newborn “babe” in Christ.
2) Laying Foundations ⎜The focus of this early phase in the life of the believer is gaining a better understanding of who Christ is and how to follow Him. As the new Christian learns more of Christ’s nature and character, He learns to trust Him not only for salvation but for other things as well. During this phase, Jesus invited his disciples to spend more time with Him so that He could reveal Himself more fully to them.
3) Equipping for Ministry ⎜In this phase, the disciple learns to serve others and engages in ministry opportunities under the guidance of more mature believers. Jesus’ call to His disciples, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” indicates that He was moving them to the next phase of growth. Jesus took His disciples with Him as He went about teaching and ministering to people.
4) Developing New Leaders ⎜As the believer progresses to this phase, he is ready to take responsibility for the spiritual well being of others. Jesus’ time during this phase with His disciples was characterized by teaching about how to live in His Kingdom. Also, He designated twelve of His closest disciples as apostles and sent them out on their own to preach the Kingdom of God and to minister to people’s needs.
There Are Two Dimensions to Spiritual Growth ⎜Equipping and Restoring.
Not only does spiritual growth occur in phases, but it also involves two dimensions⎜equipping and restoring. The equipping dimension includes building knowledge, skills, and abilities into peoples’ lives, while the restoring dimension refers to regaining the image of God by developing emotional and relational health. The phases discussed above relate primarily to the equipping dimension, which is characterized by growth in such areas as personal knowledge of Christ and His ways, the ability to trust God, and the ability to minister to others.
The second dimension relates to our emotional and relational well being. This aspect is necessary because, when a person comes to faith in Christ, he brings all of his baggage along with him. Some of us bring little baggage and some of us bring a lot, but none of us has the emotional and relational health necessary to grow to full maturity in Christ. As can be seen in the way Christ worked with His disciples, God does not wait to complete the equipping dimension before He begins to work on the restoring dimension. Rather, the two are interrelated and He works on them at the same time. In fact, it must be so because one’s spiritual growth is limited if emotional and relational issues are not addressed.
Because of our own sin nature and because we live in a fallen world, we develop unhealthy patterns of thinking and behaving as we make our way through life. Many of these patterns develop as we try to protect ourselves from the inevitable hurts that come our way. God wants to restore us to emotional health, not just so we can minister effectively for Him, but also primarily so that we can enjoy our relationship with Him and with others. There is no relational health without emotional health.
As in all other areas, Jesus is our model of emotional and relational well being. It is an understatement to say that not everyone liked Him, but the way He related to friends and foes alike was healthy. His words and actions were characterized by integrity, purity, and honesty. And His emotions betrayed integrity as well. As G. Walter Hansenin writes in Christianity Today, “I am spellbound by the intensity of Jesus’ emotions: Not a twinge of pity, but heartbroken compassion; not a passing irritation, but terrifying anger; not a silent tear, but groans of anguish; not a weak smile, but ecstatic celebration. Jesus’ emotions are like a mountain river cascading with clear water. My emotions are more like a muddy foam or a feeble trickle.” Because of the hurts in our past and the resulting protective behaviors we have engaged in, many of us can probably identify more closely with the description of Mr. Hansenin’s emotions than we can with those of Jesus.
The Christian life is all about relationships. When we place our faith in Christ, we enter into relationship with Him. We also become part of the family of God. The Bible speaks of believers as members of the “body of Christ.” Much of the teaching of the New Testament revolves around how we are to relate to one another. If we have not developed emotional and relational health, these new relationships can be very challenging. The good news is that these new relationships provide a wonderful opportunity for us to grow. Believers should make up a restoring community, where we demonstrate unconditional acceptance and speak the truth to one another in love (Ephesians 4:15).
In light of these teachings, our primary concern should be that we see consistent progress over time in our spiritual growth and that this growth is evident in all areas of our lives. We should imitate the Apostle Paul’s mindset as reflected when he wrote, “…I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14) The picture Paul paints is of an athlete who is straining every muscle as he pushes toward the goal. We should exhibit the same determination in our spiritual lives.
However, we should not become preoccupied with growth for growth’s sake. We should not become like the anxious six-year-old boy who every morning jumps out of bed and runs over to the growth chart taped to the back of his door to see if he has grown any taller over night. If we continue to press toward the mark, growth will come. And, each day we can rejoice in the confidence that He who has begun this good work in us will carry it through to completion (Philippians 1:6).
• What evidences of change in attitudes/actions/beliefs have you seen in your life since you became a Christian that indicate you are progressing toward Christlikeness?
• Meditate on Philippians 1:6, thanking God that He is at work in your life and will continue to work.
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