The single best practice to change your spiritual life is…? Before I tell you what research says, let me tell you what I’ve noticed in my own life and watching others over 25 years of ministry. About 18 months ago, my son got me back into weight lifting. I realized I only have a couple of years to model and apprentice him to be just as strong on the inside as he’s becoming on the outside. I set a goal to instill in him 3 practices that have made the most difference in my life:
~ Staying connected to God’s Spirit in a moment by moment way. Jesus said apart from abiding in Him, “you can accomplish nothing” (John 15:5), so that seems important! We read Soul Revolution and practiced the 60-60 together.
~Loving, confessing community every week seems essential. Jesus’ disciples implore us to not neglect meeting together, but encourage each other and to “confess your sins to one another…so you may be healed.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, James 5:16). He’s in a small group with other students.
~Daily reading the Bible is the third essential practice. The Lord said to his leader, Joshua, “meditate on [scripture] day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8). We just talked about getting more consistent on this one.
But which one is MOST important?
Last week, our leadership team sat with Nancy Lewis, a statistician here in Austin overseeing our church survey. Nancy’s the brains behind the Reveal survey. She told us, “After surveying 750,000 Christians about spiritual growth, the single biggest predictor of spiritual growth, regardless of maturity level, is whether a person has a daily practice of reflecting on the Bible.”
She said of all the spiritual disciplines, this one stood out by a statistically significant wide margin. More than anything else, daily reflection on scripture determines whether a person actually does things that demonstrate love for God and love for others (signs of true spiritual maturity).
She went on to say, “It’s got to be daily.” I pushed for clarity, “why daily—isn’t a few times a week good enough?” “No!” she insisted. “We looked at the difference between those who said ‘daily’ versus ‘several times a week’ and there’s a big difference in outcomes.” When I questioned why, she postulated that people who say “daily” probably really do have daily habits, whereas those who say “several times a week” might not even be that regular in reality.
Not Just Reading…Reflecting
She also said, it’s not just reading the Bible daily. They looked at the difference between those who said “I read daily” and those who said “I reflect on scripture daily,” and there was a statistically significant difference influencing maturity. So it’s not just reading and checking the box, “I was a good Christian boy/girl today,” it’s the daily practice of prayerfully reflecting on what you’re reading. Not just reading God’s Word, but letting God’s Word read you (someone wiser than me said that). In fact, for growing Christ followers, scripture reflection is twice as catalytic as any other factor! You can read more of Nancy’s analysis in Greg Hawkin’s book, Move.
Lifeway Research followed 2,500 church attendees for a year to determine the biggest influence on spiritual growth and maturity. “Daily Bible engagement was the No. 1 predictor of spiritual maturation,” wrote Wagonner in his book, The Shape of Faith to Come.
With a bit of ironic twist, we wouldn’t need research to tell us this…if we meditated on God’s Word. Moses, David, Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, Peter all say how important it is to read, meditate, memorize, and study God’s Word. So as leaders, there’s nothing more important we can do than model this and help others live it too! Let’s talk more about it in upcoming posts, but first…
Share comments of what’s helped or hindered you most in developing daily habits in God’s Word?