Four Steps Towards Growing Spiritually, Together in 20151
On the brink of crossing the threshold into 2015, New Year's resolution lists are being drafted and added to. Personal goals are being set. Dreams are being envisioned. Lofty plans are being developed. 2015 will be a big year -- at least that's the hope!
My goal with this post is not to add to the list, necessarily. But rather to suggest four very basic, practical ways to help us think about our spiritual progress in 2015, not only personally, but corporately, as a church. This list is hardly exhaustive, but hopefully serves as a primer for our growing together in the new year.
1. Read the Bible...with another member
Tis the season to once again scour through the scores of Bible reading plans in hopes of reading through the Bible in the upcoming year. That's a healthy goal, and one that many of us would do well to try to accomplish each year. But what if instead of going it alone, you asked another member to join you in your journey through God's word in 2015. The accompaniment of a reading partner could help keep you each accountable and foster thoughtful, reflective conversations centered on the Scriptures. So grab a friend, pick a plan, and plan to read...together.
2. Pray for fellow members
Throughout the past year, you've heard repeated encouragements to pray through the membership directory in your quiet times. Well, in 2015 we'll keep beating that same drum. The membership directory is a great reminder to pray for each member in the body, not just those we're closest to, or know most about. So how can you pray for those members whom you're less familiar with? Instead of the routine, "God bless so and so" or "Lord, be with such and such", pray Bible passages over each member. After all, Scripture reading and prayer are meant to intersect, not be mutually exclusive. So whether it be for the elderly saint or the young mom, the married couple or our single brothers and sisters, those serving at home and those serving abroad, we can pray that their "love might abound more and more" (Philippians 1:9), and "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give them the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of their hearts enlightened, that they may know what is the hope to which he has called us, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might."(Ephesians 1:17-19). So resolve to use the membership directory to pray for other members, Scriptural prayers. And beyond that, make a habit of simply asking other members when you see them, "How can I be praying for you?"
3. Make a new friend
Don't be content with knowing little about that name in the directory or that face you see across the aisle every Sunday. Seek to actually get to know one of those less-known members, probably one whom you have less in common with than your current group of friends. Invite an older saint out to lunch and ask them their testimony. Encourage a new believer over breakfast on a Saturday morning, asking them about struggles and challenges they're facing early in their Christian life. Seek out that one who seems to be on the fringes, sitting alone at services and sneaking out soon after. Ask them their story and share yours. Open your schedule, your home, maybe your checkbook, definitely your heart, in an effort to build a deep(er) relationship with one of those fellow members for whom Christ died. And don't be discouraged by seemingly being brushed off, or canceled on, or outright rejected. Be persistent. It may be that the one whom you're trying to connect with isn't a good fit, but don't let that stop you from trying to connect with someone else. Remember, these are your brothers and sisters. You will spend eternity with them. Best to familiarize yourself with each other now! Pray and trust that this new friendship would result in you both being "mutually encouraged by each other's faith." (Romans 1:12)
4. Attend the Gatherings
It is an oxymoron for one to say he/she loves God but doesn't love being with God's people, gathered around God's word. The normal pattern of Biblical Christianity seems to be one of salvation, integration into a church, and continued meeting together to hear God's word preached and observe the Lord's Supper (see Acts 2). Further, the writer of Hebrews commands us not to neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). Corporate worship is not an optional add on, it is an essential element of our Christian lives. God has intentionally designed our lives together--serving one another, spurring one another on, encouraging one another, etc. -- to have a direct correlation to our spiritual growth. While this certainly involves more than just coming together when the church meets, it certainly doesn’t involve less. Commit to regularly attending the Sunday gatherings, both the weekly morning services and the bi- weekly evening services. Don’t choose one or the other, prioritize both in 2015. Consider it an immense privilege and grace from God to be able to gather with the saints to sing, pray, and receive the word. Safeguard your Sundays to meet with God and his people. And along with attending Sunday morning and evening services, consider incorporating Sunday school and Wednesday night Bible study into your weekly routine. Believe me, there is no such thing as overexposure to God’s word or his people. Assuming you attended Sunday school, morning and evening services, and Bible study each week, you’d have invested a total of roughly 5 1/2 hours out of a possible 168 in a week. And none of it would be wasted.
Read the Bible. Pray. Make new friends. Go to church.
Four basic steps towards spiritual growth in 2015; none of them novel. Yet my hope is that we’d set out to accomplish these goals with sights not only on our own growth, but that of our other brothers and sisters as well. To the end that we who have received Christ, might also walk in him, rooted and build up in him and established in the faith (Colossians 2:6-7).
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