1. Spiritual Formation

SF Outcome 1: Love the Word of God

Growth Suggestion A:

As pastors or leaders, we can sometimes find ourselves in a rut of reading the Bible only for sermon preparation or other ‘required’ ministry obligations. We’re ashamed to admit that Scripture reading as a discipline, for the purpose of spiritual formation, has long fallen by the wayside and has either ceased to exist or has been replaced by sermon or leadership prepa-ration. Reading the Bible for sermon material and reading the Bible for devotional purposes are two very different things.
As leaders, we will never be able to lead others into deeper relationships with God and to a love of God’s Word, if we are not there ourselves. You need to develop or re-develop a consistent habit of reading or studying God’s Word. Don’t make a massive change; make a small change and build from there. Start by reading one Bible verse every day for a week and think about what it means. After you’ve been successful, do the same for a month. You know how significant a personal de-votional time is, so begin to make a small step in this direction, be consistent, and your health as a disciple will grow with each passing day.

Growth Suggestion B:

Follow a 30-day Bible reading plan. If you miss a day, try to catch up. If you miss 3 or more consecutive days, start the plan over. Scripture reading should be a joy, not a burden. The goal is to develop consistent habits in studying the Word of God. You will be better able to live out a “life worthy of the calling you have received” when you are immersed in Scrip-ture. Growth Suggestion C: Read a chapter a day and spend 20 minutes meditating on the passage of Scripture. Start a devotional journal of thoughts related to your Scripture reading. What is God teaching you?

Suggested Growth Resources:

PAONL Bible Reading Guide www.youversion.com
The Divine Mentor (Wayne Cordeiro)

SF Outcome 2: Pray Without Ceasing

Growth Suggestion A:

Try talking to God consistently during a daily task such as washing dishes, commuting, yard work, etc. Continue to do this until it becomes natural and “second-nature.”

Growth Suggestion B:

As you go about your daily tasks and responsibilities, purposefully ask God to guide your conversations, decisions, and interactions. As disciples, nothing we do should ever take place outside of the wisdom of the Spirit, which is a natural outflow of your prayer life. Growth Suggestion C: Live your life in an attitude of prayer. This is especially difficult in situations that require self-control. Have a prayerful mindset in difficult situations and let your communion with God guide you.

Suggested Growth Resources:

Too Busy Not to Pray (Bill Hybels) Praying With Confidence (Jeff Leake)

SF Outcome 3: Worship in Spirit and Truth

Growth Suggestion A: Once per day, pause and praise God for something in your daily life (a quiet moment with your child, an encouraging conversation with a friend, a beautiful sunset). Sometimes we are so focused on the ‘big things’ that we neglect to be grateful for the ‘little things.’ The little things are often what contribute to our overall sense of happiness. Be aware of those moments and give thanks to God for them.

Growth Suggestion B: Understand that worship is more than styles of music, dress codes, instruments, or song choice. God is worthy of your praise in every situation – even when you are distracted by music you don’t enjoy, or when you are in a worship environment that isn’t your preference. While in your corporate setting, work towards worshipping God in a genuine way, even when the music may not be your style!

Growth Suggestion C: Worship comes easily in happy times. However, it is not quite as easy to worship God in very difficult times. Choose to intentionally worship God when you find yourself in a difficult situation (conflict, family crisis, illness, etc.), as well as in happy times and health. Encourage others to do the same.

Suggested Growth Resources:The Air I Breathe: Worship as a Way of Life (Louie Giglio)

Here I Am to Worship: Never Lose the Wonder of Worshipping a Saviour (Tim Hughes)
The Unquenchable Worshipper: Coming Back to the Heart of Worship (Matt Redman)

SF Outcome 4: Listen to the Voice of God

Growth Suggestion A: When we pray, it’s easy to just fill time by talking. In a conversation, if one person does all the talking, the other doesn’t get a chance to speak. It’s the same with God. If we don’t pause to listen, He won’t speak. Think of it as the difference between giving a mental “to do” list for God versus having a personal conversation with Him. Spend a few moments each day practicing listening to God in silence. Try to limit distractions as much as possible.

Growth Suggestion B: In your personal time with God, regularly ask, “God, is there something I need to hear from you right now?” Then be silent. If you need direction for something in particular, you should ask God, then be silent. God will respond to you wanting to hear from Him. Ask and listen. Growth Suggestion C: Do you ever wish God would just use an audible voice? In most cases, He doesn’t. God directs our thoughts and desires during our time with Him. We often wonder if those thoughts are from us or from God. It’s in continued prayer and communion with God that we learn to distinguish the voice of God. Sometimes, God doesn’t give us the big picture, but He gives us next steps. Work on listening and following God’s next steps for your life, even when they don’t make sense.

Suggested Growth Resources:

The Power of a Whisper (Bill Hybels)
Sacred Echo (Margaret Feinberg)
Immediate Obedience: The Adventure of Tuning in to God (Rod Loy)
Discerning the Voice of God: How to Hear When God Speaks (Priscilla Shirer)

SF Outcome 5: Pursue Biblical Principles for Living

Growth Suggestion A: During your devotional time, when hearing sermons, or in Bible-centered conversations, be mindful to ask the question, “How does this biblical principle apply to my life today?”

Growth Suggestion B: As we become more in tune with the Spirit, we will have a greater desire to know the ways of God. This life-long process is an outflow of our personal sanctification and personal holiness. Evaluate your personal holiness and look for an area of weakness. Yield that area of your life to the Spirit and work towards Christlikeness. Make decisive steps towards improving in that area.

Growth Suggestion C: Evaluate an area of your life that you consistently fail to improve. Find a wise Christian friend or mentor and discuss your shortcoming truthfully. Between the two of you, come up with an action plan for improvement, including regular accountability.

Suggested Growth Resources:

Biblical Foundations: Principles for Pentecostal Believers (Donald F. Johns)

SF Outcome 6: Share the Gospel Wisely With Others

Growth Suggestion A: Many Christians find it very intimidating to share their faith, particularly given that our culture can be intensely hostile toward Christians. Sharing the Gospel is most effective in the context of a relationship with another person. Methods that were successful in years gone by don’t tend to be as effective at the present. If you don’t have a relationship with any non-believers, ask God to open a door to build one. When building a relationship with a non-believer, pray and ask God to open the door to share. Don’t rush what God hasn’t facilitated. Your first task may be simply to casually mention that you go to church or to mention an event that you at-tended at church. Allow God to guide your conversation.

Growth Suggestion B: Once you’ve developed a relationship and a sense of rapport with a non-believer, begin to talk freely about your life and what’s important to you. Your friend may believe that “that’s ok for you and I’m happy that you have faith” but not be interested in sharing it. You need to demonstrate to your friend, via your life and words, that Jesus has changed your life. Yet, be sensitive and non-judgmental in sharing what God has done for you. Growth Suggestion C: There will come a point in a relationship where you must take a risk – a risk in telling your friend that you believe that the Gospel message is for everyone. Ask God to give you wisdom as you go out on a limb and explain why Jesus is relevant to the entire world. Your friend trusts you and will listen to you on the basis of your relationship. However, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and not your own desire to ‘save’ him/her. You must respect your friend’s right to either accept or deny the Gospel. Your call is to faithfulness in sharing the Gospel.

Suggested Growth Resources:

Becoming a Contagious Christian (Mark Mittelberg, Lee Strobel, Bill Hybels)
Just Walk Across the Room (Bill Hybels) Reimagining Evangelism: Inviting Friends on A Spiritual Journey (Rick Richardson)

SF Outcome 7: Enjoy the Fellowship of the Local Church Growth

Suggestion A: In your practice of regular church attendance, do you find yourself dreading church services and other gatherings? Are there times when you have to drag yourself to attend or find yourself wishing you could just stay home? If this is a problem for you, ask yourself why. Believers should enjoy the company of other believers and the worship that is shared with the gathered community. Share with a pastor, presbyter, or Christian friend and ask for help.

Growth Suggestion B: The gathering of believers is more than just being in the same room, listening to the same sermon. We are meant to pour into each other’s lives. At each gathering you attend, ask God to lead you to someone else that you can encourage, pray for, or share with. When you participate in church life, and contribute to the wellbeing of others, you will find joy in belonging.

Growth Suggestion C: The church is a community and a family. We must be intentional about sharing our lives with one another. It’s easy to talk about the good parts of our lives – our accomplishments, careers, and families. But it’s much more difficult to discuss family problems, lost jobs, mental illness, problems in parenting, etc. We must intentionally open our lives to the community of faith and learn to do life together. In doing so, we find great freedom as well as support and encouragement. Make a conscious effort to share openly, particularly when it’s difficult. A small group is the ideal setting for this type of engagement.

Suggested Growth Resources:

From Belonging to Becoming (Mike Clarensau) The Irresistible Community: An Invitation to Life Together (Bill Donahue)

SF Outcome 8: Cultivate Solitude

Growth Suggestion A: Choose a regular time for one week and set it aside to spend it in silence and solitude. Be sure to leave all electronics in another room, as they are one of our greatest sources of distraction. If you’re a young parent, you’ll have to do this before the children wake or after they go to bed, but it’s probably more important for you than any other group of people. Allow God to refresh your soul and give you strength. Growth Suggestion B: Solitude demands rest for mind, body, and soul. In the hectic pace of life, Christians often don’t give their bodies the rest they truly deserve. Work towards overcoming resistance and carving out time for solitude in your life and for that of your family. While daily solitude is needed in short doses, healthy disciples need longer periods of solitude for deeper refreshing. At least once a week, preferably during your Sabbath, observe a more extended time of solitude, allowing the cares of your life to slip away as you rest in the Lord.

Growth Suggestion C: If you’ve incorporated the previous two growth suggestions and have mastered them, try going on a spiritual retreat for at least 24 hours once or twice per year. This time should be a respite from the normal routines and pressures of life. This should also be a respite from online and media usage. Use this time to read Scripture, meditate on God’s Word, and focus on the magnificence of God. Spend time talking and listening to God.

Suggested Growth Resources:

Practicing Greatness (Reggie McNeal) www.presentationsisters.ca