How to Grow: Chapter 2
This chapter will be written from my perspective as a Christian, husband, father, and pastor. Some of the things below I, and my family, do better at than some of the other things listed. The point is not for you to go from 0 to 100 by next week. Pick one or two things to do personally and as a family. If you try to do everything, you will more than likely end up failing. So start slow. Be consistent. And watch God spiritually grow you and your family.
One last note. There’s not a microwavable option for spiritual growth. We’re used to being promised things like being able to lose 10 pounds in a week, to master the piano in 30 days, or make the NBA after playing just one year of high school basketball.
So let’s be real. It’s all silliness. Let’s not let the silliness to creep into our spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is possible. Just take it one day at a time. The days will add up, and before long, you will discover that you have grown in your spiritual walk with the Lord.
Let’s begin by looking at some ways that you can spiritually grow as an individual.
Read your Bible. I know, I know. It is an intimidating book. It may be the thickest book you own. Don’t let that keep you from reading it. A good Bible reading plan (Chapter 4 will have some examples) will help you navigate your way through. Expect things to be a bit confusing the first time through. It’s OK if you don’t remember every name, date, and place because you are not reading the Bible to pass an exam. You are reading to hear from God.
The key to reading the Bible is to just do it! The next best advice is to keep doing it! The third piece of advice I have is to keep doing what you are doing. You get the idea. The more you read the Bible, the more you will find yourself being surprised by two things. First, you understand things you didn’t before. Second, you will realize how unified the entire Bible is.
Study Your Bible. Beyond reading your Bible, you need to study it. There are all kinds of resources to help you study your Bible. Publishers even make “study Bibles” (Chapter 4 will suggest some good study Bibles) with lots of notes, maps, and other helpful tools so you can better understand what you are reading. The difference between reading and studying your Bible is that, in studying, you are thinking long and hard about how all of the pieces of God’s story fit together. It is best to study the Bible with someone else. So grab a buddy, pick a book in the Bible, and start studying together.
Memorize Your Bible. Now you’re probably thinking that I’m crazy. Memorize it? Yes. Throughout the Bible we are shown the importance of memorizing God’s Word. You can do it. It does not matter if you memorize a verse here and there or entire books of the Bible. Just be sure to put God’s Word in your heart by memorizing it.
Prayer. To pray means to communicate with God. It’s that simple. A good model to follow is the A.C.T.S. model of prayer. The “A” stands for adoration. Praise God for who He is. The “C” stands for confession. Confess your sins to God. The “T” stands for thanksgiving. Thank God for all of the wonderful things He has done for you and others. Finally, the “S” stands for supplication. This is where we bring our needs and the needs of others before Him.
It’s OK if you need to write out your prayers or have lists so that you don’t forget something. Some people journal their prayers and others don’t. No matter what you do, just be sure to communicate to God daily. And don’t do all of the talking. Let Him get in a word or two.
Reading. Not in place of reading your Bible, but in addition to reading your Bible, you should be reading good books on and about the Christian faith. These could be Christian living books, books on theology, books on current issues in the world that are affecting religious freedoms, and even biographies of other Christians or moments in church history. Reading books written by other Christians help us to learn from one another and helps us to see that we are part of a much bigger faith family than just our local church.
Some current authors worth reading include: John Piper, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, Don Carson, Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, David Platt, Lysa Terkeurst, Francis Chan, John MacArthur, Russell Moore, Al Mohler, Michael Horton, Rick Warren, RC Sproul, JI Packer, Randy Alcorn and Jared Wilson.
Some past authors worth reading include: Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, John Owens, Andrew Murray, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, John Stott, Jonathan Edwards, Cotton Mather, Richard Baxter, John Flavel, Thomas Brooks, Richard Sibbes, Samuel Rutherford, and AW Tozer. (It must be said that, although I appreciate these authors, preachers, and Bible teachers, there are some things that I would say a bit differently and have some slight differences on minor theological issues. Overall, though, you will find these people to be an encouragement as you grow in your faith.)
Listening. Beyond listening to your pastor preach each Sunday, we live in a day and age where the world of preaching and podcasting is at our fingertips. But first, a warning. It is easy to fall into the comparison trap with the access we have to so many resources. No pastor wants their preaching to be used as a tool of criticism for another pastor in the trenches of ministry. So listen for your own growth and not to compare and critique your pastor.
Some pastors worth listening to are: Tim Keller, JD Greear, Ray Ortlund Jr., Sam Storms, John Piper, Matt Chandler, John MacArthur, Francis Chan, Louie Giglio, Bryan Chapell, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, and Mark Dever
Some female Bible teachers worth listening to are: Beth Moore, Kathy Keller, Jen Wilkin, Kathleen Nielson, Nancy Guthrie, Melissa Kruger, Rosaria Butterfield, Christine Caine, Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer, Joni Eareckson Tada, and Sheila Walsh.
Having looked at some ways to grow spiritually as individuals, let’s now talk about growing spiritually as a family. Be sure to check the resources in chapter 4 for more ways to grow together as a family.
Read the Bible together as a family. Find a time to gather as a family and read from the Bible. When the kids are younger, find an age appropriate Bible or app. When your kids are a bit older, maybe read a chapter a day from an easy to understand translation. When you have teens, maybe have them read the Bible and then discuss what they’ve read.
Many people have grown up not knowing the Bible. If that’s you, you may feel like you’re behind because it is so unfamiliar to you. Don’t pass on that unfamiliarity to your children. Read to them. Choose a gospel, like Mark, and begin there. If you read the Bible regularly, your kids will grow up loving to hear God’s Word.
Prayer. Pray together as a family. My children each have a night to pray before dinner. We started this routine to keep the bickering down about who would get to pray, but also to encourage our quieter child to participate. If your child isn’t sure how to pray, model for them. Have them repeat after you and always be sure to encourage them for doing a great job.
Some husbands and wives make it a habit to pray together before bed or first thing in the morning. I text my wife most days with something in my day that I’d like her to pray for. Whatever your routine, just make sure that you are both praying with and for one another.
Reading. Similar to our personal growth, reading good Christians books can help your family grow spiritually. There are a ton of great children’s books for all ages and good literature for couples as well. My kids and I are typically in some sort of faith based series. We take it slow and make it through a couple of books each year. See chapter 4 for some book recommendations.
Watching. Our kids have grown up in a visual world. One way to redeem their screen time is to have them watch programs that will help them grow in their faith. My family has enjoyed many programs on missionaries, books of the Bible, and other faith based material. See chapter 4 for some recommendations.
Conversations. Kids love to talk about what they’re learning. Look for opportunities to ask your kids questions about faith and life. Be intentional about having meaningful faith conversations with your kids while driving in the car, playing at the park, or doing chores around the house. Your kids will remember those meaningful conversations, and they’ll develop the habit of talking with you.
One Last Note to Fathers
I know that not every family has a father who is present. Our world is broken and the family has experienced the brunt of the effects of sin. But if you are a father, you have a biblical responsibility to “raise your children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4b).” So lead your family. Pastor them well. You are their shepherd and your wife and children are the souls God has placed under you care. Don’t neglect this responsibility and joy that has been entrusted to you.