Sometimes it feels like we should be doing more. Our preaching could improve, and there’s always something more we could be doing. Add to that comparisons to other pastors and churches and it’s easy to get discouraged.
I have good news for you today: You’re already discipling. You probably don’t need to feel bad about what you’re doing. You just need to stay at it. It matters.
Three Behaviors Matter Most
When I started writing my book How to Grow, I was wrestling with our discipleship efforts. I’m a church planter in downtown Toronto. Many of the people who attend our church are young in their faith, and I wondered if I should do more.
I discovered some research in Daniel Im’s book No Silver Bullets. When it comes to producing characteristics of spiritual maturity, three behaviors seem to matter the most:
- Reading the Bible
- Attending a worship service at your church
- Attending small classes or groups for adults from church, such as Sunday school, Bible study, small groups, Adult Bible Fellowships, etc.
Reading this list, I felt a sense of relief. We can and should do other things to help people mature, but these three things matter the most. And here’s the good news: most pastors are already working on helping their people do these three things.
You could call this the ordinary Christian life. There’s nothing spectacular about it. When people read the Bible, worship, and participate in community, they tend to grow. They’re simple behaviors and they make a difference.
Invite People In
We don’t need to start a bunch of new programs. We just need to invite people in to what we’re already doing.
Most of our people know they should be reading the Bible. We have the privilege of helping them figure out how to do this. We can cast a vision for why this is important, helping to take away guilt as a motivator, and by providing simple tools to help them develop a Bible reading habit. One of the most effective things we can do is to teach people how to build habits that work for them. Most people won’t figure out how to do this by themselves, but we can coach, support, and encourage them.
Most people know they should attend worship services, but other priorities get in the way. We can cast a vision for why worship matters. We gather because God is worthy of our worship, because we need each other, and because we have a role to play within the body. We can teach our people the vital importance of simply showing up.
Most people know we have small groups and other classes. We have the privilege of explaining why they are important, and that out of all the behaviors they could choose, that this one makes the top three when it comes to spiritual growth.
We don’t need to start anything new. We just have to invite people into what’s already happening.
We tend to beat ourselves up for what we’re not doing, or compare ourselves to other ministries that are bigger and more effective. But I don’t know of a church that isn’t already providing the basics that people need to grow. We just need to invite people into the ordinary and glorious things that Christians need in order to grow.
I thought I would have to create a brilliant new strategy. Now I realize that I just need to call people to simple behaviors that make a big difference. And I have the privilege of walking with them in relationship, sharing burdens together and cheering them on while they also encourage me.
Be encouraged, pastor. You’re already discipling.
– Darryl Dash is pastor of Liberty Grace Church in Toronto. He is also cofounder of Gospel for Life, and director of Advance Church Planting Institute. He is the author of How to Grow: Applying the Gospel to All of Your Life (Moody Publishers 2018). He has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and has over 25 years of ministry experience. Darryl is married to Charlene, and has two adult children, Christy and Josiah. You can find Darryl online at www.DashHouse.com.