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A Missing Element in Local Church Discipleship

A Missing Element in Local Church Discipleship

I once told my wife that I was thinking about writing a book on mistakes I’ve made in ministry. She suggested that I reconsider since it would have to be a multi-volume series.

One of the biggest mistakes I made when I served as pastor of four churches was failing to emphasize the importance of every member being in the Word every day. Brad Waggoner, in his well-researched book, The Shape of Faith to Come, notes that regular Bible reading is one of the highest correlates for spiritual maturity. To state it more succinctly, when members read the Bible every day they are more likely to demonstrate spiritual growth in a number of areas.

What Happens in a Local Church

The implications of this research are enormous. Those Christians who read their Bibles daily:

· are more likely to give generously to the church.

· are more likely to be active in a small group or Sunday school class.

· are more likely to share their faith more often.

· are more likely to spend greater time in prayer.

· are more likely to attend worship services regularly.

· are more likely to be involved in local ministries and international missions.

Many times I am asked to describe effective approaches to discipleship in the local church. The inquirer is essentially concerned about seeing church members become more devoted followers of Christ, and seeing those members more connected to the life and ministry of the local church. And the missing element to these concerns that I see most frequently is an intentional effort to involve as many members in daily Bible reading as possible. The Word of God is powerful and transformative. Reading and studying the Bible daily may be the most important act a Christian can do to grow as a disciple.

Practical Steps

I have asked pastors and church leaders to share with me some practical steps they take to get their church members involved in daily Bible reading. Here are some of their responses:

· Have a time of commitment in December to read the Bible through the next calendar year.

· Emphasize from the pulpit the importance of daily Bible reading.

· Have a plan of daily Bible reading that leads to each week’s sermon.

· Provide video testimonies of transformed lives of those who read the Word each day.

· Build a website that allows a community to gather to share with one another what they are learning from their time in the Bible each day.

· Make certain the pastor and other church leaders speak in both formal and informal settings about their own priority of daily Bible reading.

· Teach a broad overview of the Bible so the members can understand how the chapters and verses they read each day fit in the grand narrative of Scripture.

In the Word Toward Greater Discipleship

Too many times we think of local church discipleship as a program where church members meet at a specific time. Ultimately, though, discipleship is really becoming more like Christ. And we become more like Him as we read and study His Word. The Bible is inspired by the Spirit, so it is transformative for the believer.

It is one the biggest mistakes I made as a pastor. I did not emphasize sufficiently the importance of daily Bible reading. I would do things differently if I were a pastor again. I would do everything in God’s strength to get the church members in the Word of God each day.

If you do, you will likely raise an army of devoted disciples who will transform your church and, ultimately, transform the world.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.


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