Monday, January 7, 2013

Planning to Grow

Introduction

 In the modern church’s backlash against legalism, we often are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Because we do not want to be legalists, we are afraid to formulate some manmade standard of spirituality that consists of a list of duties. That is a good thing. However, the danger is, without some sort of plan, we become passive in our own spiritual development. This results in spiritual immaturity, spiritual decline, and even what we used to call “backsliding.”

We can safely say that if one does nothing to cultivate his soul, his soul will not flourish. At the same time, we can also say that there is no set, biblically prescribed program that everyone should follow in order to grow. There are biblically prescribed elements to spiritual growth, but one incorporates these elements into his or her life can vary. That means, each Christian must be intentional and active in his own spiritual growth. Passivity will not do.

One approach to being proactive in your own spiritual growth is to develop your own “Spiritual Renewal Plan”, or SRP. This is the plan that you develop so that you can continue to grow in grace.

What Your Plan Should Include

Spiritual Disciplines

While the Bible does not outline a program for us, the Bible is clear that there are certain “means of grace” that should be a regular part of every Christian’s life. These include:
  • Corporate Worship (church)
  • Prayer
  • Bible reading/study/preaching
  • Fellowship
  • The Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper)
In addition to these, there are other disciplines that the Bible tells us are helpful to our spiritual growth. These include: serving, fasting, giving, evangelism, meditation, singing, solitude, etc…
 
Your SRP should include these activities. In addition, think about the things that you do or have done that you have found to be spiritually refreshing. It could be that reading certain books or attending a particular conference, or even listening to certain music stirs your soul. Include these things in your spiritual plan as well.

Other things to include

You may find it helpful to include things such as exercise or date nights with your spouse or family devotions as part of your SRP. It is your plan. So, put on there whatever it is you think you need to do in order to grow spiritually.

Constructing the Plan

Be Realistic

As you develop your SRP,be realistic. If you haven’t been reading your Bible at all, then it is unrealistic to set a goal of reading it for one hour every day. It is a lot like exercise. If you have not been exercising, you would not begin by running 5 miles a day. You would start with a much smaller, more realistic goal. Try 10 minutes of Bible reading and 5 minutes of prayer.

Be Challenging

While you do not want to set unrealistic goals, you also do not want to settle for mediocrity. The spiritual disciplines need to become a regular part of your daily life. Yet, remember, the goal is not to prove yourself to God through disicpline and hard work. The goal is to grow in God's grace by focusing on it constantly.

Add Variety

Do some things daily, some things weekly, some things monthly, quarterly or yearly. There are some wonderful spiritual disciplines that you cannot do every day or even every week (like fasting or solitude), but if you do not put them in your plan, then you will never do them.

Also, you may not want to do the same thing everyday. For example, you might decide to read the Bible for 15 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and listen to a sermon or message in the car on the way to work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Don’t Let Failure Stop You

If you set a goal to read your Bible everyday and then go a week without reading it, it is easy to get discouraged. Don’t. Just keep at it. Just because you fail for a time, that doesn’t mean you have to quit or that you are a failure. Just start again. You are going to mess up some, maybe even a lot, but, if you keep after it, you will begin to see solid, steady spiritual growth.

At any time that you discover that your plan is not working, then simply take to time to revise it and make it a more realistic plan that you will actually do.

Build It Into Your Calendar

Once you have decided what you are going to do, enter it into your calendar. If you do not put it into your calendar, you probably won’t do it. This is particularly important for things that you do not do every day or every week.
 
If you are planning a weekend away with your spouse, even if it is not for another 6 months, put it on your calendar. If a conflict comes up, you can move it, but you cannot delete it. Putting it on your calendar forces you to think about it and increases your chances of following through. So, everything in your plan must be entered into your calendar.

Constructing Your Plan

Below are some ideas of things to include in your SRP. You might choose a couple of things in each category, or create your own ideas. More is not better. The goal is to regular use of the means of grace so that you might walk in God's grace.

Daily

  • Read the Bible for 10 minutes
  • Pray for 10 minutes
  • Listen to an MP3 of a sermon while exercising
  • Pray with my wife every night
  • Read a devotional
  • Read 1 chapter of the Bible
  • Read or sing a hymn or inspirational song
  • Read a Bible story and pray with the kids

Weekly

  • Family Devotions twice a week
  • Attend church
  • Prepare for and Participate in Small Group Bible Study
  • 1 hour of in-depth Bible study
  • Meet with men’s group or friend for accountability
  • Be home for dinner 4 times a week
  • Work out three times a week
  • Listen to sermon MP3’s twice a week in car on the way to work
  • Listen to sermon MP3's while exercising
  • Date night with my wife once a week
  • Tithe
  • Take one child out to breakfast each week for time alone with dad
  • Family Game Night once a week
  • Journal twice a week
  • Try to have one spiritual significant conversation with an unbeliever each week
  • Pray for the pastors each week

Monthly or Quarterly

  • Read one spiritual refreshing book
  • Spend half day alone in prayer
  • Spend half day with my wife in prayer
  • Meet with a friend for real accountability once a month

Annually

  • Spend one day in prayer and fasting
  • Attend a retreat or conference
  • Take one weekend away with my wife without the kids and use some of the time for in-depth prayer
  • Read two spiritually refreshing books
  • Take one day alone for a personal spiritual retreat
  • Go on a mission trip

3 comments:

Grace Parson said...

What book(s) would you recommend me read to learn more about spiritual renewal plans?

Mark Bates said...

Grace, I don't know of books that specifically address this. However, there are some good books on spiritual disciplines that relate to this topic. The idea is to keep it simple and encourage people to make regular use of the ordinary means of grace. Two books that I like on spiritual disciplines (which are ways to make use of the means of grace) are The Disciplines of Grace by Jerry Bridges and Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald Whitney.

Grace Parson said...

Thanks!