As the story goes, a disgruntled man wrote an editorial, published in the local newspaper, about his plans to quit participating in church. He pronounced, “I’ve been going to church about 50 Sundays each year for decades and I don’t know if I can recall what the message was last week let alone 2 years ago. I don’t think it is having any impact on my spiritual health so I’m finished!” A few days later another fella wrote into the same paper and shared, “I’ve been eating the meals my wife has prepared for 365 days each year for decades, and I don’t know if I can recall what the meal was last week, let alone 2 years ago. But I know I’d be dead if I did not eat!” A humorous reminder of the nature of spiritual growth.
Like organic growth, spiritual growth is sometimes not all that visible. My four boys are age 13 down to 8. We have fed them similar types of meals for years and for the youngest physical growth is so gradual we can hardly see it. But all of the sudden, my oldest is eating more of those same meals, and growing at a much more rapid rate. In the same way, you and I cannot know when and how the Lord might produce significant periods of spiritual growth and when He might have us in a place of more gradual development, but if the nutrients of the Gospel message are not there, we will likely lack the raw spiritual materials for gradual growth, and certainly for substantial growth.
As we enter 2017 this certainly applies to Sunday morning worship services, Sunday school, and small groups. However, one of the areas we want to invite our congregation to “put ourselves in the way of God’s grace” this year (to have a meal to enjoy throughout the week) is through daily devotional material. We are happy for folks to use whatever sound method of spiritual development works for them to get into Scripture. But frequently one of the reasons we do not get on a pathway spiritually individually, as a couple, or as a household, is because we do not know how to cook our spiritual meals very well.
A few years ago we participated collectively as a church body (at least 30 bought to book) in spiritual growth on the home-front, using Starr Meade’s book, Training Hearts, Teaching Minds. In a similar manner, but for just 1 year duration, we are making her newer book, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds, available for purchase on Sunday mornings. The format is very user friendly, with one spiritual growth question (catechism is the church word for that) from a carefully written document, The Heidelberg Catechism, which believers have found Biblically sound and beneficial for centuries.
To help fuse the life of our church body during the week with our worship services on Sunday, we will include the focal question for the week in our service every Sunday, and then the book walks through short readings, including Scripture, each day. In past years, when we utilized the previous book at the Peters household, we just kept it right by the dinner table. Like a lot of families with busy activity schedules, we only end up sitting down all together 3-4 evenings of the week. So if we missed Monday, we just moved on to Tuesday. If we missed a whole week, we just started with the current week.
Maybe as an individual, couple or household, you will be able to be a bit more organized with it, or maybe you have another plan already. But if not, or if you just want to join the journey of our collective church family, I hope you will pick up a book this Sunday and dive in. We will even provide a card to guide you if you get lost on what week we are on! My sincere wish as your pastor is that this will bless your family, and especially for those with little ones, these time-tested questions and answers about the Lord will give them really healthy spiritual meals that they can build Gospel health from an early age, for lifelong spiritual vibrancy.
If you like Kindle and want to save a penny or know you will be out for a few weeks and want to order it directly, here is the link.
And to read an article from Christianity Today about the impact of this approach for churches, go here.