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Disciplined by Faith: Part 1


Most Christians know the feeling. You sit down to read the Bible and pray, wanting to enjoy a passionate experience of God, but,…crickets. You struggle to focus on the text, and what you grasp seems irrelevant to your pressing concerns. Your prayer time is dry, and your burdens don’t feel any lighter afterwards. You wonder, “What was the point? Did I just waste 30 minutes of my life?” You’ve probably walked away from a church service with the same feeling. You entered the service carrying a heavy burden expecting God to lift it. Or you came with a pressing practical concern about parenting, finances, conflict resolution, etc., and you were desperately looking for answers. However, neither the songs nor the sermon seemed relevant to the issues weighing on your mind. You didn’t love the songs, and the sermon was dry. Again, you wonder, “Did I just waste 75 minutes of my life? How did any of that help me address my problems?”

People often respond to these challenges in one of three ways. First, some people turn to alternative sources of relief. Instead of reading the Bible or going to church, they sleep in, go for a walk, take a bike ride, or watch T.V. These outlets often provide more immediate relief than reading an old book or getting the family out the door to church. They all may have their place; however, none of them bring divine power or anchor your heart in eternal realities. They relieve pressure, but they don’t build true spiritual stamina.

A second, more “spiritual” response is to build Bible study, prayer, and worship around our pressing concerns or what we sometimes call “felt needs.” Instead of reading through the Bible, you do topical studies or read devotional books about your pressing concerns. You dedicate your prayer times to whatever feels most pressing. Many churches plan their services around these “felt needs.” They begin by identifying people’s most common concerns, and they choose worship themes and sermon topics that speak directly to them. This strategy also generally bears immediate fruit. People get answers, they feel better, and they build a plan of attack. These are all good things. However, this approach to spiritual growth doesn’t build a deep understanding of and faith in the character of God or in the assurances of the gospel. Therefore, it generally leaves people with a shallow faith and ill-equipped for the next crisis or to minister well to others in their crisis. The Christian experience becomes defined by crisis, worship becomes about crisis management, and pastors become crisis managers.

In saying this, I want to be clear that crisis is a harsh and painful reality. The Christian life will include overwhelming burdens and pressing questions. We must know where to turn for help, and pastors and church members must be ready to love, encourage, and counsel each other through hardship. This ministry is crucial to the health of the church. However, building your personal spiritual disciplines and the church building its services around felt needs is shortsighted and unbiblical. I say this because God’s primary calling for pastors, the church, and, by extension your private devotional life, is not crisis management but building deep-seated spiritual maturity. Notice the vision of Ephesians 4:11–16.

“And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”

This passage describes Christians who are constantly growing, stable in their convictions, and contributing to the health and maturity of others. Gifted leaders are at the center of this growth, but they don’t prop up the entire structure as if everyone and everything collapses without their constant input and energy. Instead, God commands pastors to cultivate widespread, stable maturity which equips members to withstand life’s storms and to support each other through them. Again, we must respond to crisis, but felt needs should not define the church’s ministry, and neither should they define your private devotional life. Instead, God calls us to keep long view toward deep-seated spiritual maturity.

I hope you desire the vision of Ephesians 4, and you believe that God knows how to get you there. My next post will explain a third way, the biblical way of pressing toward real biblical help with eternal value.


Thank you Pastor Kit,
I especially appreciated the 2nd paragraph where you compared “relieve valve” activities to building up “spiritual stamina,” and going through the Bible verse by verse is 100% better than topical studies. Addressing a necessary topic has its place, but I wish Sunday School lessons and weekday Bible studies are also “verse by verse” with a book from the Bible. Again thank you for your words of wisdom.
Excellent Pastor Kit! We are still growing in grace after all these years. Looking forward to part 2. The church body is certainly rallying to our side during this trial. Keep speaking truth!

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