What does a mature disciple of Christ look like? Over the past decade Lifeway Research has delved into this with thousands of pastors and church leaders. Culling through the data, we discovered that strong discipleship ministries and practices could be put in eight categories. We call these eight categories the signposts along the discipleship pathway. One sign of growing disciples is that they seek God.
We can do a lot of things on “auto-pilot.” If you’re like me you can brush your teeth without consciously thinking about the process of brushing your teeth; you can brush while working complex algebra equations in your head. (Well, maybe you can; I can’t) The daily commute to work can become so routine that we can drive the route without ever thinking about it. Other things like chores and office work can also be done in auto-pilot.
One thing we should never do in auto-pilot is our time with God. Whether it’s corporate worship or private Bible reading, we must be focused and intentional to receive anything from it.
In the Transformational Discipleship research, growing disciples strongly disagreed with the idea that worship can be done by simply “going through the motions.” Instead, maturing disciples approach things like congregational worship, prayer, and time alone with God with focus and intentionality. They actively want to seek God, worship Him, and draw closer to Him. A believer seeking God is evident in three ways.
- Christlikeness is their goal. A person becomes a disciple of Christ because he intends to follow Him and become like Him. The desire to become like Jesus does not end when we cross over the threshold of faith and gain salvation. Growing disciples continuously seek after God because of their love for Him and commitment to become more like Jesus. We should have a continuous hunger for knowing Christ.
- Faith is their guiding principle. Maturing disciples prioritize their faith as the guiding principle for living. The personal commitment to Jesus Christ for salvation remains important throughout their lives.
- Honoring God is their desire. In the research, growing believers gave a strong agreement to the statement, “One of the main reasons I live my life the way I do is to please and honor God.” These believers actively praise God for His previous work in their lives, chase after what He wants next for them, and seek to do it in a way that glorifies Him.
Seeking God is the believer’s priority. We seek Him above everything else, and when we do, His work will naturally be done in and through our lives.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt. 6:33).
Ways the Church Can Foster Believers Who Seek God.
- Promote group prayer. Many churches have moved away from a weekly prayer meeting, but we would do well to resurrect them—with a twist. The twist? Too often these meetings included a Bible study, fifteen minutes of sharing requests, and five minutes of praying. Why not spend the entire time praying? If the group is large, let them pray in smaller groups.
Encourage prayer groups in homes, offices, and coffee shops. Challenge believers to meet with 1-2 others and pray. For those unaccustomed to praying, doing so with others can lead them to develop the discipline of prayer as a way to seek God.
- Organize a prayer retreat. Provide a weekend opportunity for believers to get away for a day or two, set aside their phones and electronic devices, and seek God. This can be a tough act for many of us, but a retreat is an opportunity to force ourselves to seek God and go before Him without any distractions.
- Evaluate the weekly worship service. What happens on Sunday mornings is almost universally called a worship service, so make sure it is a time of worship that leads us to go deeper with God and step out in service. If you plan the service with a group, plan with a critical eye. Do what will enhance worship—and that it more than just choosing the right songs and adjusting the lighting.
Rearrange the way the service progresses. For example, lead with the sermon and follow with music and singing as a time to reflect on the pastor’s message. Both traditional and contemporary services tend to have a regular flow to them; I’m not suggesting change simply for the sake of change, but when there is a sameness to the flow of the service week after week, it becomes a routine, a rote habit that can be done on auto-pilot.
Lose the printed order of service. Of course, those leading in worship need to have a plan, but why share it with the whole congregation? A printed order lends to the idea that worship is a program. Believers can worship without knowing what’s going to happen next.
We’d love to hear from you. What are some ways your church is helping believers see God?
Lynn Pryor (@lynnpryor) is a team leader in Lifeway’s ongoing adult Bible study department. He also serves as an interim pastor in the Nashville area. Read more from his blog at lynnhpryor.com.