In my last blog posting, I talked about “Trust but Verify,” I felt God prompting me to discuss this issue of our participation in our faith life more, so today I want to discuss our participation in our faith life.
Just like in secular life, we have many types of people, we too have many varieties of Christians:
– those who believe but don’t read the Bible
– those who believe and sporadically attend Church and don’t read the Bible
– those who attend Church regularly but don’t read the Bible
– those who believe but don’t attend Church
– those who believe, attend, and engage with God through prayer
– those who believe, attend, pray, and read the Bible
– those who believe, attend, pray, and engage in the Bible
You get the idea.
Willow Creek Church, located near Chicago, Illinois conducted a study (called REVEAL) from which they developed a model that describes how people can move through their faith.
They describe the Christian’s faith journey as taking the following steps:
Exploring Christ – You believe in God, but maybe not in Jesus, your faith is not significant
Growing in Christ – You believe in Jesus, and are working to get to know Him
Close to Christ – You have a relationship with Christ and you depend upon Him
Christ Centered – Your relationship with Christ guides your entire life.
I believe that a person can stall at any point while moving through their faith life on the REVEAL continuum. And, where we fall on this continuum ultimately depends upon us. For many years I attended church with my first husband. In this church, as in many others across the nation, we would follow the program. If there was a Bible in the church pew I never opened the Bible (since the readings were printed in the program). We would go through the readings, sing a few hymns and then settle in to listen to the Pastor give his sermon (often impatiently waiting for the 15-20 minute sermon to end). Perhaps on the way home we may have talked a bit about the sermon, but by and large the sermon was soon forgotten. We rarely talked about faith at any other time during the week. And, we seldom ever cracked open the Bible to read, to study, or to reflect on the sermon. It was like I was checking off a box on a list. Go to Church – check. Listen to the sermon – check. Go home and live my life – check. Rinse, repeat.
If we attend church but don’t invest in the teachings of the Bible, God’s truth to us, then we may, or maybe definitely will, be stuck in our faith life at the lower end of the spectrum. I for one find this REVEAL model very helpful for understanding just where I am in my spiritual life. While I would love to say that I’m in the Christ Centered category, I think that might be some wishful thinking on my part. I am flawed, I sometimes cave into my human nature which sends me off track. So, if I am being honest, I would have to place myself somewhere between Close to Christ and Christ Centered. I have a desire to move to Christ Centered section of the continuum of Willow Creek’s model.
Here’s the big truth I’ve learned throughout my faith life. The greater amount of effort I put into my relationship with Christ, the greater benefits I see in my life. As I’ve moved through the REVEAL model, I’ve reaped so many rewards, my life is enhanced, and God is moving in me. It’s fantastic! I wish that everyone who has faith in Christ would engage, really engage, in God’s Word, in praying, in researching what the Biblical experts say, maybe even in journaling their faith life.
God places churches and church leaders in our lives to help us in our faith. The community of believers is a fantastic place to learn and grow, but ultimately it’s up to each one of us to grow, and mature, in our relationship with God. If we attend church, listen only to what the Pastor, or senior leaders say, and take their word as being gospel, then we’ve done ourselves a disservice. People are human, and people make mistakes, yes even Pastors make mistakes. There are even some Pastors, or church leaders, who leave God’s teachings on the back burner, only to use for manipulation for their own agenda.
As Christians, we have the responsibility to keep our Church leaders accountable. But, we cannot keep them accountable if we are living in a vacuum. We must trust, but more importantly, we must verify that what we’re being taught lines up with the truth – God’s truth. I believe that we Christians must must personally, directly, engage in our faith to learn what God wants us to learn, to let God direct us on the path that He has chosen for us.
I don’t know about you, but I want to experience all of what God wants to teach me, I want to always experience Him and the full riches of my life in Christ. God called me into this relationship with Him, and He has great and wonderful truths to share with me – and I intend to pursue Him until the end of my earthly life. How about you?
Like me, in my past, have you blindly followed a Pastor, or a Church leader, without checking God’s Word?
What do you think about Willow Creek’s REVEAL model?
Where do you think your faith life is on the REVEAL continuum?
*REVEAL continuum model, Willow Creek Association