5 Principles of Making Disciples and Enabling Spiritual Growth

growing team

Spiritual growth of believers should be the goal of any church. We are to reach unbelievers and introduce them to Christ, but the end goal according to the command of Jesus is making disciples. It would even make sense then, that as much as we count the offering or attendance on Sundays, if we want to know we are being successful as a church, we have to somehow “count” our success at making disciples.

Yet spiritual growth is a difficult subject and can be hard to measure, because a church can offer the same ministries and attention to the same group of people and get extremely different results.

Right now there are people in my church at 3 stages of spiritual growth:

  • Those that need to mature and are not maturing.
  • Those that need to mature and have stalled.
  • Those that need to mature and are maturing.

I suggest the same is true of your church. We rejoice in the last one. We all need to mature. We love when it happens. If we are not careful, however, we can allow the first two groups of people to discourage us and make us believe we are not doing what God has called us to do as a church.

How can we know we are growing people spiritually?

I don’t know that we can ever know as clearly numerically as we do with attendance or contributions. But, I think there are principles that can help us know we are on the right track to building disciples, for each of the three groups mentioned above. These principles, when understood, can bring a sense of clarity as to whether we are truly realizing the mission of the church.

Here are 5 principles to understanding the process of spiritual growth.

Growth is possible. Every believer has an opportunity and potential to experience spiritual growth. God wants to mature all believers. No one is left out of that plan. If someone is not growing spiritually, there is a reason. Either they haven’t been discipled or they haven’t responded to the opportunities they’ve been given to grow, but opportunity exists for all believers.

People are responsible for their spiritual growth. I am responsible to lead a church that shepherds them, encourages them, instructs and teaches them, but ultimately the believer holds the responsibility of their own growth. That’s a freeing principle, because it keeps me responsible for what I can do, but releases me of the burden of what I can’t do. I can create environments that help people grow, but I can’t make them grow.

Growth occurs best in community. The best spiritual growth in my life and in the life of others I have observed occurs when people are in committed, healthy and intentional relationships with other believers wanting to mature. Iron does sharpen iron. Disciples make disciples. It was the method Jesus used to create disciples. He spent time with His disciples. (At the same time, I have been in groups where some are growing and some are not, but that goes back to principle number two. Remember Judas?) As much as I can, I need to help people who want to grow spiritually spend time with others who want to grow and are growing spiritually. I can then give them tools to use where there time together is suitable for discipleship.

Developing a person’s desire for spiritual growth is key. When a person gets excited about his or her personal walk with Christ, they will want to get to know Christ better. The more they know Christ the more they will want to be like Him. The more people want to be like Christ the more likely they will be to assume ownership of their spiritual growth. So motivating people for the desire to grow becomes a key element in discipleship. This may be done by sharing stories of others who have grown, helping people understand their potential, or continually casting the vision for spiritual growth and maturity, but creating a desire to grow becomes a key goal in disciple-making.

The goal of the teacher/leader of spiritual growth should be to enable people to achieve spiritual growth. Knowing that people are responsible for their growth, and that I can only create environments where that can best happen, helps shape where I spend my efforts in discipleship. Our goal as spiritual leaders should be to introduce people to Christ and God’s Spirit, teach them the truths of faith, and then release them to serve, mature and grow in their spiritual life.

Please understand this is not a formula and principles are not foolproof. I believe, however, that understanding these principles can help us see the process of discipleship as something doable, even “measurable”, if we continually strive to create environments conducive for spiritual growth to occur.

Any thoughts?

A New Book That I Highly Recommend – Get 25 Free Gifts If You Get It Now By May 7th

My friend Frank Viola has just released a new book called God’s Favorite Place on Earth. Frank makes a bold claim with his newest release. This book “could literally change your relationship with God, help you defeat bitterness, free you from a guilty conscience, and help you overcome fear, doubt and discouragement once and for all.”

This is a book that will jar you out of your “Christian rut” and give you new eyes for looking at EVERYTHING. It’s a quick, inspiring, and entertaining read.

In addition, if you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also get 25 FREE GIFTS from 15 different authors including Leonard Sweet, Jeff Goins, Andrew Farley, Steve McVey, DeVern Fromke, Pete Briscoe, Frank Viola himself, and many others.

god's fp

Over 47 Christian leaders have recommended the book, including me.

Here is my endorsement for “God’s Favorite Place on Earth”:

“Frank Viola is a powerful story teller. The story in this book changed Frank’s life. That’s a powerful statement. After reading the pages of this book, I’m convinced that learning God’s favorite place on earth might just change yours also. Do you need some encouragement? Ever feel rejected in your Christian walk? Read this book!”

The premise of the book is simple and 100% Biblical: when Jesus was on the earth, He was rejected everywhere He went . . . from Bethlehem, to Nazareth, to Jerusalem. The only exception was the little village of Bethany.

The curtain opens with Lazarus, who is now ready to die, telling the incomparable story of Jesus’ interactions with him, Martha, and Mary. God’s Favorite Place on Earth blends drama, devotion, biblical narrative, and first-century history to create a riveting book that you’ll find difficult to put down. Within each narrative, the common struggles Christians face are addressed and answered.

Go to GodsFavoritePlace.com to claim your 25 FREE GIFTS, read a Sampler of the book, and watch the gripping video trailer.

People Make Mistakes


People, even the “best” people, make mistakes.

I’ve stopped being surprised when I find out the person I thought had it all together doesn’t.

When “the good girl” gets pregnant…it doesn’t catch me off guard as much anymore.

When I hear about the person in ministry, who falls into repetitive sin, I’m saddened, heartbroken, but not as perplexed as I used to be.

When the “mom” is the guilty one…it stings…I may even be angry for a while…but not overly surprised.

Sin is all around us.

It’s a messed up world we live in these days…and these days have always been. Since the fall of man.

The truth is that good people make bad decisions.

We shouldn’t be too surprised when people behave like…well…people.

That’s not an excuse. I’m not letting people “off the hook”.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to make better decisions.

We should. We really, really should.

We should be holy, because God is holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

We should have the mind of Christ. (Philippians 2:5)

I’m not saying there aren’t consequences for our actions.

There are. (Galatians 6:7)

But, I am saying…really remembering…that the only “good” in me (and others) is Christ.

All we like sheep have gone (and go) astray…apart from God’s grace.

The heart is deceitful above all things. (Jeremiah 17:9)

Sanctification is a process. (Philippians 2:13)

We need Jesus. We need Him desperately.

People make mistakes.

Even the “best” of people. Even believers.

Even you.

Even me. Especially me.

Are you surprised?

Jesus: “I Thirst” … Reconsidered


After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” John 19:28 NKJV

Years ago, I became so dehydrated on a mission trip that I had to be hospitalized. I understand the phrase, “I thirst.”

Obviously, Jesus suffered far more than I ever did. Multiplied by thousands. I can’t imagine how dehydrated and thirsty He must have been.

I wonder, however, if there was an even greater suffering Jesus was experiencing.

Think back to another occasion in the life of Jesus that involved water. When Jesus approached the Samaritan woman, He told her He had water she knew nothing about. Jesus called this water “Living Water”. Jesus revealed later that indeed He is this Living Water. Jesus said that anyone who drinks of this water, would never be thirsty again.

I wonder if Jesus’ cry on the cross was more than the result of the obvious physical state of dehydration. Perhaps Jesus cry had a deeper meaning.

Could Jesus have been crying out for some of that Living Water?

As we know, Jesus was about to be separated from His Father. Never before had God turned His back on His only Son, but that was exactly what He did at Jesus’ crucifixion. “He who had no sin, became sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21) Jesus became sin, and God can have nothing to do with sin, so God had to reject His only Son, because of your sin and mine. God the Father had to abandon God the Son. (Matthew 27:46) Jesus had to face the burden of all the sin of the world completely alone. (Praise God you and I don’t have to face our burdens alone!)

Was Jesus experiencing the reality of this separation when He cried “I Thirst!”?

I’m just asking for consideration. Maybe reconsideration. I know for me, the thought of being separated from God, even for a moment, seems unbearable. I need thee every hour. I am desperate without my God.

When you think of Jesus suffering on the Cross, remember it wasn’t just a physical pain. Jesus suffered emotionally and spiritually as well. As many know, this kind of suffering is many times the worst kind of suffering. Jesus, who knew well the joy of experiencing the glory of God, was about to give up His stake in that glory. It was surely a most horrible experience.

Jesus, you must have endured more than I ever imagined on the Cross.

Thank you for your willingness to suffer separation from your Father on my behalf.

Are You a Christian Struggling with Guilt?

girl past

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” John 3:17 NLT

Are you a believer, but you can’t seem to shake the feeling of guilt? You know God saved you, but you still feel so much guilt from your past?

I need to assure you today that, in my understanding of Scripture, guilt does not come from God. The devil often uses guilt to keep us from doing the will of God and growing in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Guilt has to do with condemnation. You feel the “weight” or “sentence” of your sin. But, didn’t Christ die for that condemnation?

The next verse after John 3:16, the famous and familiar verse, reminds us that God sent Jesus to save, not to condemn it. Romans 8:1 says there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The very definition of guilt has to do with remorse for having done something wrong. Furthermore, guilt is being responsible for an offense. A Christian’s sins have been paid for on the Cross. One of the very definitions of guilt is “guilty conduct; sin”.

The sin debt of any believer is heavy, but every bad offense we have ever committed has been covered over by the grace of Jesus Christ. We still sin, but Jesus doesn’t get back on the Cross. His death was sufficient for all our sins. There is “no condemnation” for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Please don’t misunderstand, you may feel sorry for your sins and ask God for forgiveness. That’s what we call repentance, but God’s motivating factor in obedience is love, not guilt. God guides His children to obey Him with a loving hand. Sometimes God’s love for us involves discipline. Many times we suffer the consequences of our sins. God will lead us to follow Him exclusively, but He will do it with love, not with guilt.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to bring condemnation. He came to bring salvation to all who would believe in Him.

Thank God today that there is no guilt for the person who knows, loves and believes in Jesus Christ as Savior.

Craveable: The Irresistible Jesus in Me

Artie Davis is a great friend. I honestly can say I love the guy. He’s the “real deal”. It’s hard to find a true friend as a pastor. Artie’s that kind of friend…to many pastors. Artie’s book, Craveable: The Irresistible Jesus in Me, releases this week. I’ve been a fan of this concept since I first heard about it. I can’t wait for you to read the book.

Here’s an interview with Artie about the book:

QUESTION: Tell us a little about yourself, Artie.

ANSWER: Well, I’m a guy from Orangeburg SC. I planted a church here about 20 years ago. It’s a very diverse and often racially divided town. I saw that and had a heart to change it. God’s been good to us. We have 4 campuses that are extremely diverse and multi-ethnic. A Sunday morning at our church is a lot like heaven. All backgrounds are there worshipping together.

About 4 years ago, I became the director of TheSticks.tv. Since Orangeburg isn’t a large city, my heart is for small town pastors. The Sticks is about encouraging those leaders to lead big even though their in small towns.

All of that is kinda where Craveable came from. We have a problem in Christianity… other people outside of it want no part of it. We’ve got to fix that. Being crave able is something that extends past culture, context, race, size, or background. Jesus was the most crave able person ever to those outside of the kingdom. We have to be the same way. We’ve really dropped the ball.

QUESTION: I’ve heard to craving food, but what does that have to do with Jesus and the church? What is Craveable about?

ANSWER: Craveable is about living in such a way that people want what you want. If you google “why are christians so…” in your search bar, you get a variety of answers. None of them are positive. I don’t see that when I read the Gospels. People wanted to be around Jesus. People would walk for days. People would break rules and bust through roofs to get to him. We’ve lost that. People need to crave what we have.

QUESTION: In the book, you talk about perception. Can you talk more about that?

ANSWER: Sure, perception is a combination of what we see, hear, and experience. People form a perception of us based on those things. Now, it’s easy for us to dismiss it when someone gathers what we think is a wrong perception… Christians have done that too long with the “I don’t care what they think as long as I think I’m right” mentality. The truth is, we have to own that. If we’re giving people far from God the wrong perception, we have to change what they are seeing, hearing, or experiencing. I talk about how we can do that in the book. I think it’s such an important and simple principle.

QUESTION: Where can we get the book and find you?

ANSWER: The book is at your favorite bookstore and Amazon. You can go to craveable.com to read more about the book and places to find it. Me, I’m @ArtieDavis on twitter and blog at artiedavis.com

Artie’s new book called Craveable: The Irresistible Jesus in Me, releases February 5, 2013. Find out more at Craveable.com and on twitter @CraveableChurch