At my church some of us are pondering what it looks like to take people at the beginning of their walk with God and move them towards maturity. Below is the result of my brainstorm on this topic. Not pretending this is original or brilliant, but I hope it will give people some ideas.
Goal of church: To present every member mature in Christ (there are others such as evangelism, but I think they will spring naturally from this one)
From Cradle to Grave: People need to be holistically discipled their whole life. People are made up of heart, mind and hands or affections, beliefs and actions. Our conscious is only a small percentage of us, say 0.1%. Most is going on behind the scenes in our sub-conscious. Therefore, training the heart or affections is primary; we do things based on the strength of our affections whether or not we believe in them. Despite the small place our consciousness has it is still the one steering the ship so to speak. Therefore, training our understanding is important as well. After our affections, we act based on our beliefs.
Training Our Affections: Encounters with the Holy Spirit, worship, community, well-structured church meetings, fun and/or exhilarating Christian activities (missions, steps of faith)
Training Our Intellect: Bible study, preaching, classes, discussions, meditation
Training Our Actions: Spiritual disciplines, spiritual gifts, intentional growth in holiness
Clearly there is crossover in some of these, but I’ve tried to put them where I believe they are primary.
What Sort of Church Should We Be If These Things Be True?
A well-functioning church will seek to maximize the opportunities for its members to engage in these activities. Since people have a limited amount of time, activities need to hit these from multiple angles. For example, worship songs should not only increase our positive affections, but should also give us better thoughts. Therefore, we would discourage songs without positive affect and profound theological content (we have 1000’s of songs to choose from so this isn’t an issue). Likewise small groups are an opportunity for worship, community, Bible study and discussions, spiritual gifts, and encouraging one another to grow in holiness. All of these areas need to be run with excellence so that there is benefit, which means lots of gift discernment and training.