Spiritual growth was a concept I struggled to grasp in my early years as a believer. I had spent my entire life in church and had given my life over to Jesus Christ, but as I entered adulthood it became increasingly obvious to me that others around me were far more spiritually mature than I was. I wondered what I had done wrong, and what others had done right. I became envious of the relationship that others had with Christ, and of their knowledge and understanding of Scripture. I realized that a change needed to take place in my life and so I began a journey in college that would end up leading me on the path towards spiritual growth.
During those years in life I was fortunate to have a campus minister come alongside and disciple me. The first and most important step that he challenged me to take was to begin to study and wrestle with the Word of God on my own. Now by this point in my life I was familiar with the Bible. I had been in church for my entire life, listened to countless sermons, and sat in numerous Bible studies. However, my friend taught me that we aren't as apt to grow in our faith and in our knowledge of God's Word unless we learn to study the Word of God on our own. I had for so long relied on what others (pastors, parents, Sunday School teachers, etc.) had learned and then subsequently taught about Scripture that I never really took the time to learn things on my own. I could recite biblical facts that I had heard, but I had never learned to really think about what I was reading in the Bible.
Many believers fall into the same trap that I once did. We think that attending church and sitting in a Bible study will help us grow in our faith. While we might learn things in that setting, that time isn't a substitute for our own personal examination of Scripture. We must learn to study the Bible on our own, think critically for ourselves, and apply the truths of Scripture to our own lives. This isn't to say that there isn't a place for corporate Bible study in our lives. In fact, it is extremely important to be plugged into a small group Bible study of some sort. As we personally learn and grow in our knowledge of Scripture, being a part of a group Bible Study gives us the place and the opportunity to share what we have learned, to work out our theology, and where we can put into practice what we are learning by ministering to others. When I began to study the Word of God on my own, it just so happens that I became more of a participant in Bible studies instead of an attendee. There were questions that I had or issues that I struggled with in my own personal Bible study, that I was able to bring to other believers in small group settings. There they were able to help me understand and grow as they shared what they had learned from three years of spiritual growth. I can't overstate this enough, but learning to study the Bible on my own was the single most influential step in my own spiritual development.
Once I got that spiritual discipline down, then I was prepared to grow in other areas. As I learned more and more about what God was saying to me in his Word, my prayer life began to change radically. I learned how to pray, what to pray for, and how to make sure I was allowing God to speak to me through His Spirit and through His Word.
The more I grew in my understanding of Scripture the more I realized that God calls his disciples to live out their faith in a public way and to be his witnesses in this world. So as I studied God's Word I started looking for opportunities to live out what I was learning. My life became more missional as a result. From there everything else began to fall into place in my spiritual development. I became more interested in fellowship with other believers. I began to understand the importance of unity, accountability, and of tithing. Once I laid a strong foundation upon God's Word everything began to flourish from there.
With that in mind, one of the things Pastor Alan and I wanted to establish here at Mililani Baptist Church was a class that would help believers lay a strong spiritual foundation from which they could build upon and grow in Christlikeness. Beginning on February 21, at 4:30 on Sunday afternoons we will be offering a spiritual foundations class to assist believers in their spiritual growth. This 5-week course will cover the spiritual disciplines of studying God's Word, prayer, living on mission, and much more. This is an excellent opportunity for new believers to get grounded in the faith and to lay a foundation early on to help them to continue to grow in spiritual maturity. It would also be good for those who are like me! Perhaps your story is similar to mine in that you may have been a believer for many years and you are looking for something to help you take that next step in your relationship with Christ, but you just aren't sure where to start. Finally, even if you have grown in spiritual maturity and you have these spiritual disciplines down, this class allows you to keep your skills sharp through additional training, and it also gives you the opportunity to come alongside younger believers to help them grow as you share from your own experience and wisdom. Therefore, this class is open to all and we encourage you to join us beginning Sunday, February 21. See you there!