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Developing Spiritual Muscles

Quite often church “experts” seem to imply that particular methods will produce certain “guaranteed” results. They offer proven and tested methods that will produce growth in your church just like it did in their church. First of all, we should be ready to listen and learn from others when we can. Teachability trumps gifting every time.   If you have to choose, make sure you take the less gifted over the expert who knows everything because they will accomplish more in the long run.

We sometimes focus so hard on the machinery (the blueprint or the game plan) that we forget we need to have the muscles (the strength and power) to accomplish our task.   Systems, flow charts, and organizational structures are important. They provide a track to run on and clear next steps for those desiring to move forward. We can become almost enamored with the charts, nut and bolts, and the details so that we forget about the need for His power and presence.

As a church there are some things we must focus on so we do not lose sight of where we are headed and how we can get there. For example, Christians know that they need to have a daily quiet time with the Lord. Then they must develop a system that determines the how, where, when, and what that will look like. Answering those questions will help make their goal of a consistent daily quiet time a reality in their lives. Yes, if you fail to plan you are planning to fail!

I heard Rick Warren speak on the following “Renewals.”

First, focus on Spiritual Renewal. This is how you are staying centered on God and as a church leaning into His presence. We develop habits (prayer and Bible study) that cause us to love God more. This renewal teaches us who He is and who we are. As a church what structure have you developed to help your people to stay centered on who God is? The muscle behind this process is the Holy Spirit. Being Spirit-filled is indispensable (absolutely necessary) to spiritual renewal.

Second, focus on Relational Renewal! This is how you stay connected to one another and learn how to love people more. As spiritual maturity begins to occur we need to connect people to God, one another, and then to a purpose. It moves a person from being self-centered to being God-centered and others-centered. Spiritual gifts enable us to serve God well. Leaders equip us for service and then when members have willing hearts they begin to exercise their gifts.

The problem is when we are more focused on serving ourselves than we are on serving others. It is easy to focus on how wonderful our gift is and want people to notice our giftedness. The key to the proper equipping and exercise of our gifts is to remember that they are given to serve others. If you want people to notice your gift then realize that what you are really saying is, “Look at me!”

Third, focus on Missional Renewal! This ensures that we remain compassionate for our cities, communities, and neighborhoods. We not only want to love people more but we also have a burden and desire to love “more” people. Once we connect members to their purpose (everyone needs a role and responsibility) we focus on equipping them for ministry. It simply involves showing the need, how they can meet the need, and giving them the opportunity to meet that need.

The machinery of processes and structures is important but the muscle (the heavy lifting) occurs by being spirit-filled. In the book of Acts we would have to be blind not to see that this is required of all leaders. The Lord has never delegated His authority to anyone who is not filled with the Spirit. When the church in Jerusalem was faced with what to do with Gentile believers, stated, “For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision—and ours— to put no greater burden on you than these necessary things.”

We must remain sensitive to His direction and leadership. Acts 10:38 says that Jesus was “Anointed…with the Holy Spirit and with power.” In Acts 4:8 it says that Peter “was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them.” Once again, notice the order! First he was filled with the Spirit and then he spoke. There is wisdom in us following that process. You could add to this list the 120 in Acts 2, deacons in Acts 6, Stephen in Acts 7, Barnabas in Acts 11, and Paul in Acts 13.

Being spirit-filled is required. Where do you start?

First, begin with God’s word! This is our foundation and the Holy Spirit will never lead us to disobey His word. Many people are looking for a vision when they need to be looking for a verse in His word. When we place ourselves under the authority of God’s word it does the heavy lifting for us because it decides for us what we will do and what we will not do as we live by its principles.

Second, trust the Holy Spirit’s guidance! His fullness gives us joy, vitality, and energy in our service to Him. He does the heavy lifting and it is our task to remain yielded to Him. If we refuse to remain surrendered to His leadership then we will be left to our own plans and policies. Then we will have to run the machinery in our own power. Before long we will begin to go through the religious motions without His help or assistance. The result will be an unspiritual body.

Third, listen to God’s people! We need one another and there is wisdom in the multitude of counsel. Godly and spiritual people in our lives serve as our filters in making sure we are in agreement with God’s word and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The machinery is necessary and important but we need the muscles that can only be found through the power of His word and the Holy Spirit!

Spiritual Growth Campaigns

spiritual-growth

There is wisdom in a having a focused intentional spiritual emphasis in your church. A church wide campaign can help everyone focus on personal and relational renewal. When our hearts get right with the Lord and we are living in unity with our church family it causes us to recommit to the mission of God. A coordinated spiritual emphasis can renew, refresh, and recharge a church in rediscovering its purpose. Here are some steps to help you think through what a spiritual emphasis campaign might look like:

  1. Seek God about what spiritual growth emphasis you believe that He desires to be your focus. Is He calling you to bring attention to faith, hope, grace, or something else? There is no shortcut to discerning the mind of God. Plan a prayer retreat and ask Him what He wants your church to accentuate during this time.
  2. Decide how long an emphasis you should have. There is wisdom in a 6 – 8 week campaign by ensuring it is not too long nor too short. We are told that it takes 7 weeks to develop a habit and this reinforces that principle. Consider how this will unify the entire church while spotlighting a particular priority.
  3. Make sure you challenge your people by utilizing all of their different learning styles. Be sure to appeal to and plan to reach the visual, auditory, oral, or kinesthetic learner. A campaign can bring all of these learning styles together through a planned process that drives the learning home with a synchronized approach.
  4. Get every class and group to buy into the vision of a church wide campaign by casting a clear vision. It has been said that if there is a mist in the pulpit there will be a fog in the pew. You will not have any problem with most but the late adopters may need a little more time to get onboard. Communicate clearly the value of a campaign and ask them to give it a chance to work and you will evaluate afterwards.
  5. Be sure to begin promoting this at least 4 – 6 weeks before you begin. Have your small group leaders to begin talking about the next series and emphasis. Have testimonies from members whose lives were transformed through other campaigns. This celebrates the process and encourages your people to give their entire attention to this spiritual renewal time.

What does a campaign look like? How does it unify the church, revive the body, and bring about spiritual renewal?

  1. Preach a sermon series on the spiritual emphasis. This speaks loudly to the auditory learners and there is power in the preached word of God. This is a great starting point to help everyone focus on the same thing whether it would be spiritual gifts, evangelism and outreach, or prayer and spiritual disciplines.
  2. Read the same daily assigned scriptures. These can be written devotionals or challenge the congregation to S.O.A.P. the passages through journaling. They will be need to be taught and shown what this looks like to help them understand how that can reinforce this spiritual renewal emphasis.
  3. Discuss the sermons and scripture reading in your small groups or Sunday School classes. This gives your oral learners the opportunity to talk it out in a group setting. You can develop questions for your group facilitators to use during this time. Also, be sure to ask several to be ready to share what God is saying to them personally during this time.
  4. As a church, work on memorizing certain passages that emphasize that week’s focus. Memorization uses the eyes and the ears because most people can memorize better by saying it out loud over and over. It is also biblical because David said he hid God’s word in his heart so he would not sin against God.
  5. Take advantage of as many visual tools as you possibly can. Use power points in your messages, print memory verses in your bulletin, advertise the campaign on your website and Facebook. You can also find videos to show to your small groups that give great support to your emphasis. The more people that can “see” it, the better.
  6.  Provide a service opportunity that will apply the spiritual truth being focused upon during the campaign. If the emphasis is living on mission then what could your church “do” that would implement this truth. Brainstorm ways for them to show their commitment in practical ways in the neighborhood and community.

A spiritual growth campaign has been defined by Rick Warren as “a short intentional focus on spiritual growth.” He also says “the idea of a campaign is the secret sauce of Saddleback’s growth.” He gives three reasons for campaign’s effectiveness:

  1. It uses multiple learning styles (Hear It! Read It! Discuss It! Memorize It! Do It!)
  2. It uses multiple reinforcements, and it unifies the entire church.
  3. It will be well worth the time and effort to plan a campaign that will focus the entire church on a theme that God has placed upon your heart.

It must be something you are passionate about and promotes spiritual renewal through a planned synergy of studying and talking about the same spiritual focus. You cannot push all of the time but there are seasons where you as a church much turn up the heat and intensity.

Healthy churches prayerfully consider how they can unify the entire congregation through a spiritual growth emphasis that utilizes everyone’s learning styles. It also capitalizes upon unifying everyone so that healthy interaction and discovering spiritual truths happens as a group. Plan a campaign and equip your people to experience spiritual renewal!