I am reading through the new Willow Creek book Move with our ministry staff. Yesterday we had coffee at a local bakery and talked about the first part of the book. It is divided into three sections.
[UPDATE–TO check out Pastor Kendall’s take on the same book and the same discussion click to her blog. ]
Move is essentially the analysis of a study which emanated out of Willow Creek Church and their pastor, the awesome and amazing Bill Hybels. They have a desire to see how effective they are in the work of ministry. Several years ago they commissioned a study called REVEAL that exposed gaps in their ministry model. After that initial report, they expanded the survey to 1000 other churches. Move is the report and summary finding and analysis.
The first part of the book outlines the premise that there are four types of people who attend our churches.
- Exploring Christ–This group of people are open to the idea of a relationship with Jesus, but have made no commitment yet.
- Growing in Christ–These people have made preliminary commitments but are not yet living out their faith beyond the activities of church life.
- Close to Christ–The third group of people are dedicated Christ-followers who are active in independent spiritual growth, serving through church, and spiritual engagement with the world around them.
- Christ-Centered-The last group of people are radically committed to Christ. The book calls these people “surrendered”. What they mean from this is they have reached a level of engagement that they perceive God talking to them about their daily lives.
The authors of the book present this as a continuum along which people move. Part Two of the book is about what makes them move from one level to the next. But that is for a different report.
There were several findings which are curious and instructive. First, a key concept of “challenge” kept coming through. The people being surveyed were hungry for their church to challenge them more in the way of spiritual growth and behavior. One expects that a the Christ-centered level, but it is true across the board. Even those exploring Christ seem to want to be challenged in some way as to what they are hearing and absorbing.
Second, activities at church are not an indicator of spiritual health. People can be very involved at church but have shallow spiritual practices and behaviors. Ironically most churches gauge spiritual health by how busy someone is at church and elevates these people to leadership, thus, repeating the cycle. Put Biblically, the church is built for and by Marthas but Marys the ones who get it.
Third, the longer a person attends church without making a decision to become a Christ-follower the less likely that person is to ever do so.
Fourth, There is a gap in the behaviors of the Christ-centered (fourth, most mature group) and two common spiritual behaviors. Christ-centered statistically do not tithe nor serve as often as the Close to Christ group. The authors put forward several reasons for this–but I have my own theory. I’ve known church people for years and I lead many wonderful, and good people. The more Christ-centered someone is, the harder on themselves they are and the more critical they become of their actions. The REVEAL report and the book Move uses data gathered from self reporting. I believe that the 4th group–the Christ-centered, is actually more honest and critical of their involvement and that is why they deviate.
I could be wrong, but probably not.
I’d like to add one more aspect to the book report thus far, and that is the way in which it feels devotional in nature as I read it. The authors do a great job of presenting the material in a way that speaks to me as a Christ-folower, not just as a person looking for data and analysis. I appreciate that.
Next week we will discuss Part Two, so, you can bet there will be a follow-up blog.