Less Can Mean More

 —  April 15, 2014 — 4 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 3.58.12 PMMinistry always changes because people always change. Some change is natural due to cultural influence while other change is simply a natural reaction to what was emphasized by previous generations. Either way you look at it, our focal points in our ministries are constantly evolving.

Or, at least they should be.

That said, here are two things I think we need to see LESS of in ministry to college-age people. I must warn you. At first glance, these may seem highly un-spiritual.  Just hear me out, because I think less of these two things means much more in others.

  1. Less focus on spiritual discipline.   I understand discipline is necessary for godliness, but we can also mistake discipline for godliness.  If we are not careful, placing too much emphasis on spiritual disciplines inevitably causes us to over emphasize what we believe to be proper behavior for Christians rather than the faith, love, and hope Christians ought to be motivated by. The fact is spiritual disciplines like Bible study, prayer, etc. are byproducts of faith and not producers of it.  We must be very careful with this distinction and make sure we are not emphasizing behaviors vs. faith.  Younger generations are extremely sensitive to being behavior managed.  I discuss this extensively in my latest book, Losing Your Religion.  But, here I would simply say the less focus on behavior management systems that try to get people to do things for God lends more room for us to emphasize the motivations of faith, love, and hope that free us to do things because of God.
  2. Less focus on gaining more information.  Spiritual maturity is not defined by how much knowledge we possess. Memorizing Proverbs doesn’t make me wise.  Learning more about God and what it means to follow Jesus through the scriptures is, of course, important and especially for those that know almost nothing about scripture.  However, in my experience, our emphasis should be much more on seeking to embrace what we already know. So, to be clear, we are not negating knowledge, but instead, valuing it to such a degree that we actually emphasize embracing it practically.

definitionsSome phrases or words or topics are commonly used in the Church:

  • “We need to grow spiritually
  • “We want to make sure everyone is being discipled…”
  • “We need to train people in evangelism
  • Spiritual disciplines are important for every Christian”

But using these phrases often doesn’t mean people actually understand what we’re talking about.  People might be able to use the terms in the right context and in the right ways, but if asked to define these things most would have a hard time doing so.  Well, I’ve realized more than ever we have to make sure these types of things are defined clearly and simply.  If not, all we do is train people in Christianese – a language we use that nobody really understands.

So, I thought I would do is provide the definitions I use in our church.  You might already have your own definitions that are concise and effective.  If that’s you, then maybe mine can just be something you compare/contrast yours with.  If you don’t have these defined concisely, I would recommend doing so immediately.  Leadership requires us to be clear.

The first word or phrase I will define in this series is: spiritual growth.

This phrase is tossed around a lot, but nobody really knows what we mean.  So I have defined it.  It may not be a perfect definitions, but I believe we can say we have grown spiritually

if the time it takes us to read scripture and embrace it is less than it used to be. 

This definition does a number of things other than just providing a definition:

  1.  It leans on Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 that says the goal of our teaching people about him and his ways is obedience.  We cannot feel like we’ve grown spiritually simply because we can regurgitate scripture.  Reading the bible makes us Christian as much as reading People Magazine makes us a celebrity.
  2. Implies that we need to be growing in our understanding of scripture.
  3. It insinuates actions need to be taken after reading.

How do you feel about that definition?  See any holes in it?  Any other benefits you see it having?  If you have defined it for yourself and ministry, please share it so we can all learn.



Here are the texts/emails we sent out to students who participated in HSM’s Back to School Pray Fast Challenge. If you missed yesterday’s post on it, check it out here!

Day 1 – Personal- Pray for your relationship with Christ and read 2
Corinthians 13:5-7.

Day 2 – Promise- Focus on the promise God revealed to us in Psalms
119:105. How does that relate to us.

Day 3 – Passion- Focus on Matthew 22:37-40 and think about how can you do
this more.

Day 4 – Pastoring - Focus on how can you be more of a light to the people
around you and read Matt 5:14-16.

Day 5 – Protection - Pray for God’s protection over others and yourself.
Be specific in the areas you want protection from God. Read Proverbs 18:10

Day 6 – Perseverance – Read and focus Romans 5:3-5 Pray that God would
help you perservere and see the benefits it has on your character.

Day 7 – Password - Focus on Psalms 100:1-5 also take the time to think
about having a heart of gratitude. Thank God and others.

JG