Reveal: Where Are You?

This is a review of the book – Reveal: Where Are You? You can find also find more information about this book at the website. This book is a summary of the findings of a research conducted at Willow Creek and at other congregations about the spiritual growth of the individuals in the congregation. The book seeks to answer questions about effectiveness in ministry in the local church, the results of the research in this area, and suggested next steps for any local congregation. Two of the key themes that I found in this book are that activities or programs at church do not correlate with spiritual growth. Also, as one moves toward becoming a deeply committed Christian the importance of the local church in one’s continuing spiritual growth decreases.

My Response

I found this to be a fascinating and quick read. I finished it on the bus as we were traveling to Willow and Granger last month. I found it addressed one of the questions that I did not know that I had about ministry – how do you measure effectiveness? There is more to measuring spiritual growth than counting attendance at various activities.

Relevance and application for The United Methodist Church

I think that this book and results of the Reveal study have both relevance and application for The United Methodist Church. As a denomination, I have found that we are focused on creating programs to fulfill our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ. This book suggests that this is the wrong approach to our mission. I think that one possible application would be less of a focus on creating programs for local congregations and increase focus on recruiting and training leaders – ordained and non-ordained – for the local church. I believe that leadership and relationships will continue to become more important in making disciples of Jesus Christ than building and implementing programs.

Relevance and application for The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection

I think that this book has relevance and application for Resurrection. As a congregation, we took part in the study and have used some of our specific results to shape our 2008 strategic objectives as a congregation. I found in this book a strong word for us, as we do have a lot of programs that seek to help people in their journey of knowing, loving and serving God. I do not think that these are ineffective for individuals at particular stages of their faith journey. However, I think that we could be more effective in equipping individuals as the move further along the journey of being deeply committed Christians.

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5 thoughts on “Reveal: Where Are You?

  1. Those two key themes are very interesting! Activities and programs don’t contribute to spiritual growth and the importance of the local church decreases as one becomes a deeply committed Christian. Would it even be an overstatement to say that these are potentially revolutionary!

    What do they do about these findings? The activities and programs revelation isn’t all that shocking to me. But the second one isn’t just shocking – to me it says a lot about the church. Are we serving up superficial baby food in our congregations so that people have to find the “solid food” Paul speaks of on their own?

    Maybe I am misunderstanding what you are saying they found, but if the church is not an indispensable tool in helping people to become deeply committed Christians, isn’t that a major warning sign that it is missing the mark?

    I would be very interested to hear you say more about this.

  2. Kevin – I don’t think that it would be an overstatement to say that these are revolutionary findings – particularly for the local church. I believe that Willow is significantly reworking their understanding of how to be the local church as a result of these findings. However, I am not aware of the tangible steps that are being taken in response to the findings of the survey.

    I do not think that the book implied that the church is not a very important part of people becoming deeply committed. It is an important part of that process – particularly at the beginning when individuals are just introduced to faith or beginning to understand what it means and living as a disciple.

    I think that the implication is for those who would consider themselves deeply committed or on the way there (always on a journey toward Christian perfection) the local church activities become less important for deeper growth. I think that the local church can and should continue to be an important part of spiritual growth, but not the same type of catalyst for growth as a disciple for people at all places in their journey.

    As one moves toward living as a deeply committed Christian, I think the church could do a better job of equipping and teaching tools for individuals to use for continued spiritual growth. This might mean teaching around the spiritual disciplines, a mentoring structure, deeper level accountability (i.e. band groups or similiar), or other things.

    To use worship as an example – I think that for someone starting the journey of faith the weekly worship service can be a catalyst for great growth in spiritual maturity. However, as one continues in the journey, I do not think that the weekly worship service will continue to be the same type of catalyst or encourage the same rate of growth in discipleship.

    I think that some of this also points toward the responsibility of the individual for one’s own spiritual development. It is not the responsibility of the pastor or leadership for everyone to be spiritually growing in the church. The pastor and leadership can be intentional and very active in creating the environment in which spiritual growth and increased discipleship can happen, but the major portion of responsibility lies on the individual for continued growth.

    Does that provide any clarification?

  3. Andrew – that absolutely provides clarification. You have beautifully stated these things.

    It seems like many churches may struggle to just get people to have a surface level commitment, like come to worship weekly, and so the culture of a church can cater to the least common denominator, and forget about creating an environment that facilitates growth in grace and an expectation that we are on a journey closer to the presence of God.

    Thanks for sharing this. It has helped me think what the church is and should be.

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