One of the things I am constantly thinking about is what causes us to grow spiritually. I do this first of all because I want to grow, I get tired of the same old bad habits, personality flaws and relational deficiencies. But I’m also a pastor and one of my main jobs is to help people, lots of people in their journey. And recently I stumbled onto an observation that could be a game changer for many of us.
You see I’ve noticed that there are many of us who attend church and Bible studies regularly, we’re even involved in ministries and relate with other church people. And yet it’s challenging for us to see some of the progress we are wanting to see. I think the difference comes down to one word: engagement. While we are putting ourselves in some great environments and I do believe the right environments are key for growth. The problem is we often don’t truly engage in these environments. We fail to “make it personal”. We think if I can just learn the right things, I will grow. But if we never do anything with what we’re learning, it just won’t grow us. Now, don’t get me wrong, learning is critically important. Godly environments are some of the best places to saturate ourselves in. But don’t underestimate the power of engagement.
So what does it mean to engage as opposed to just observe? Engagement first of all means engaging your mind. Not just to learn or take notes but to ask questions, wrestle with content, figure out what current beliefs you have that are being challenged by what you’re learning. Secondly, engagement is about exercise or practice. Take the concepts you’re learning and try them out. You may not believe them yet, and you won’t do them perfectly, but try them. Take a step of faith, put yourself in a situation that is a little out of your comfort zone. Remind yourself that you’re just practicing so you don’t have to do it perfectly. Thirdly, engagement is about sharing. Take what you’re learning and practicing and share it with other people in your life. Say things like, “I’ve been wrestling with this idea I heard and I’ve been trying to see what it looks like in my life and here’s what I’m seeing…. what do you think about that?” I also have found that trying to teach someone the thing I’m learning causes me to solidify it in my heart and mind better than if I just heard it.
There are many other ways to engage, but the bottom line is to be actively involved in what you’re learning and seeing. And the thing we didn’t even talk about: as you engage there will be all kinds of benefits for others and for the church. If you’re married and you start trying to discover what biblical love looks like, your spouse will be blessed. Let’s say you engage in the process of giving of your finances in a prioritized and big way, the church will be able to do more because of your partnership. Let’s say you choose to engage in evangelism by building a relationship with someone outside of faith, your “practice” could end up changing that person’s forever! And as all this is going on, you are growing like crazy all because you choose to engage!