Part Three of Move is the overall summary on what the authors believe churches can do to “move” people from the first category of Exploring Christ to final mature category of  Christ Centered.  The section contains six chapters with the first one serving as an introduction to the concept of “Spiritual Vitality Index” which is modeled upon the medical professions “Body Mass Index.”  The SVI serves as a measurement tool to gauge the spiritual health of a congregation.  The higher the SVI number, the better.

This number is very important for the methodology of Move because the best practices are determined by examining the ministry strategy and methods of the best practices churches.  Best practices churches are determined by those with SVI’s in the top five percentile.  The next four chapters highlight these four top practices:

  1. Get People Moving–The first best practice highlights a discipleship agenda that focuses upon the processes of spiritual growth.  Instead of small groups with varying curriculum, best practices churches use models similar to or identical to Rick Warren’s famous baseball diamond with the 101, 201, 301, 401 structure.

    Rick Warren’s Famous Baseball Diamond
  2. Embed the Bible–Examples are given  about churches that are able to lead their congregations to more frequent encounters with the Scriptures.
  3. Create Ownership–Churches that are able to convince their congregations that they “Don’t go to church, they are the church” are able to move them into more community activity and evangelism.  The idea is not one of controlling the church but of turning everyday life into ministry opportunities.
  4. Pastor the Local Community–The authors reject the classic divide of “is it the gospel or social action” and say both!  Churches that have healthier spirituality are involved in a myriad of community projects and ministries.

Part Three ends with a challenge to leaders to have a Christ-centered heart.  By that the writers and researchers mean church leaders must not see church growth or more numbers as the goal, but individuals who are growing in their personal discipleship.  They suggest this should be pursued even if it means your church shrinks in numbers.  The goal is better disciples, not more disciples.  Although, the caveat they offer is that better disciples will, in the long term, produce more disciples.

Reading Part Three and the Appendices, two things struck me.  One, the writers use the word “Paradigm” a lot.  I think they should probably reduce that.  Each chapter suggests that what they are suggesting is a paradigm shift, i.e. “Embedding the Bible into everyday ministry is a paradigm shift for most churches.”  They do that with all of these.  I fail to see the paradigm shift.  Involvement in the community, the Bible, setting discipleship criteria and goals, and encouraging people to be active in their daily lives for ministry opportunities are hardly paradigm shifts.  My suggestion is that we should view it as a reinforcement of classical Christian ideas.

The second thing which struck me is from the Appendices, p. 274 where the authors indicate how Willow Creek responded.  Willow was not among the best practices churches and decided they needed to change.  What they changed was their famous Believer’s Service on Wednesday nights.  Back in the dark ages when I was in seminary we were taught all about Willow’s adoption of “seeker services on Sunday” and then a “believer’s service on Wednesday.”  After the Reveal report and the Move study they threw that out the window in favor of a “university” approach featuring the 101, 201, 301, 401 on Wednesdays.   This “move” essentially replaces small groups in the weekly life of the church.  I find these wholesale changes rather amazing.

Read reviews of the other sections:

Part One

Part Two


Monday my intrepid ministry staff met again to pick up where we left off in our close reading of the book Move.  They had beverages, I however had not eaten all day and had a tasty tuna fish sandwich.  I wish I had specified that the bread be toasted because it was soggy.  Other than that, the sandwich was fine.  It was not worth $9 though.

Part two of Move:  What 1000 Churches Reveal About Spiritual Growth is the section which gives the book its name.  These five chapters detail the twenty-five catalysts that help people move from one level of spiritual growth to another.  For example, it details what happens in a persons life to move them from being a person who is Exploring Christ to a person who is Close to Christ.  Since there are four categories of spiritual health (details in my earlier blog) there are three movements.

The first movement indicates several trends which are not easily explainable.  The book details that church activities and theological affirmation are the key catalysts that help people along.  In other words, the beliefs people adopt are what move them–not their relationships.  These beliefs are a salvation by grace and in the Trinity.

The second movement is all about how people view God in their lives.  The writers of the book use the nomenclature of “personal God” for this concept which hinges on the border between belief and practice.  When people begin to believe that God is personal to them and that he cares for their lives, then their involvement in daily prayer for guidance and reading and reflecting on the Scripture is more frequent and more meaningful.

While the first and second movements are hard to explain, the third is near impossible to put into words.  This last and critical maturing move is highlighted by such attitudes as “giving my life away” and “Christ is first”.  These individuals are highly motivated and the survey findings reveal that the catalyst for movement to this level is not found inside church activities.  Instead it is nurtured by personal or independent activities rather than organized worship, studies, or service.

This section has one chapter for each of these movements as well as an opening chapter on overall implications and insights.  The section finishes with what I thought was a clumsy non sequitur about people who stall or are dissatisfied.

In Part 2 I found the following observations interesting and instructional:

  • The church as an organization is irreplaceable in helping people making the first movement, but then is actually a barrier to making the third movement.
  • Belief–and the acceptance of cornerstone beliefs–are more important than experiences such as trauma or disaster in people making these spiritual steps toward maturing.
  • Time and again it was revealed that he most important catalytic activity is for people to read the Bible and reflect on it.  Nothing else is as significant for spiritual growth.

This was the most wonkish of the sections and not as informative as the first section.  I am, however, looking forward to the third section.  Time and again the authors keep promising how great the third section is for helping church leaders do better.  I can’t wait.  I promise to share my results in a follow up blog sometime next week.


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.


This week I wrote the last words to my new novel about Pastor Butch Gregory and sent it to a couple of folks to proofread and also to a friend for his opinion.  The most important reader, Mrs. Greenbean, already read it and said she loved it.  So, to me it is already a success.  After these folks get finished and I make any corrections to continuity or plausibility, I”ll have to find a publisher!

Now, though,  I’m going to take a month or two off of writing before I start my next book and catch up on all my reading that I’ve  been pushing to the side.  “Let’s see, what have I got here in the pile,” he thought to himself  as he rummaged around the large stack of hardbacks, paperbacks, and magazines lying on the floor of his study.

Oops.  My bad.  Its hard to get away from 3rd person writing.  Anyway, what is stacked on my floor?

1.  A couple of Wayne Cordeiro books.  The Irresistible Church and The Divine Mentor.  Those will be great.  I love Wayne.

2.  Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage.   A friend gave that to me for Christmas.  I like Keller; and I forgive him for being a Calvinist.  Notice how much he looks like Captain Picard.  I do.

3.  Launch by Nelson Searcy.  Searcy is such a self promoting hack, but his books are always insightful.   I got that book to help me think through our Silverdale church plant.

4.  Oooh, I’ve got Dr. No, Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel, sitting right over there.  I might read that one first.  I’ve made it a project to read through all the original Bond novels.  So far I’ve been very surprised at how different Bond is in print as opposed to on film.  Its not quite the same.

5.  Viral Churches.  Some book from the denomination.  Looks infectious.  By the way, why do so many church books use medical terminology, and usually yucky terminology.  Why would anyone, on the face of it, want a church that was viral?  I blame Bill Hybels.  He started it by telling all of us should be contagious Christians.

He coughed as he wondered if he might not be  getting a fever; and then he thought about how much he admired Hybels.  If only he had hair that nice, maybe he too would have a large ministry.

Sorry, there goes that pesky 3rd person again.  Now, back to the list.

6.  The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1.  A friend gave me that as a gift.  It looks delicious; but it is so big that it intimidates me.  I haven’t had the gumption to start it yet.  It feels like the kind of thing that, if I started today, I might get finished by 2015.

7.  Oh, over there is the Biblical Archaeology Magazine I started last week.  I take a lot of magazines including Newsweek, National Geographic, and Christianity Today; but above them all BAR is my favorite.  Hands down.