Recently I was asked to fill out a number of questions about my views on spiritual transformation. One of the questions was, “In your opinion, what are the essential spiritual practices that Christians need to do to grow spiritually? Why these?” Here are my responses.
1. Communion is something I think that isn’t practiced enough (evidenced by its once a month event in many congregations). Taking communion is one of the most important elements of the Christian life. It’s a reminder of the price Jesus paid for us. It should convict us of our sin and faults, and lead us to seek forgiveness as we grow toward spiritual maturity (John 6:53-58; Acts 2:42-46). It is our way of evaluating our life so that we can make the proper adjustments needed to continue our spiritual growth (1 Corinthians 11:28). Could you imagine if we took communion each day or even each week? It was the main component of the disciples’ life when they would meet together. Communion should not be an additional event once a month where people don’t show up because “it runs over normal time.” Communion should be the main event each Sunday that’s integrated into the normal schedule as we continually set our sights on Jesus and continually work to throw off our old lives.
2. Serving others and giving to others is also an important practice to grow spirtually. By serving others we become Christ-like. Jesus himself said in Matthew 20:28, “I have not come to be served, but to serve others…” Serving others reminds us that it’s not about us but about Jesus (Matthew 23:11, 25:34-40, Luke 6:38; John 13; Galatians 5:13). According to these verses, this practice seems to be a requisite for living out one’s faith in Jesus. Investing in the lives of others is not only important for spiritual transformation, but for the Christian life as a whole. Galatians 5:13 says we must serve each other humbly with love. Our Churches can no longer sit and expect new people to just miraculously show up at church. We are called to “go out and make disciples” not “sit in and sing about following Jesus.” Following Jesus requires us to serve our communities humbly with love if we expect to lead them to Christ.
3. Forgiveness is one of the most important and significant acts of the Christ-follower in spiritual transformation (Matthew 6:9-15; Ephesians 1:7, 4:31-32; 1 John 1:9). This means seeking forgiveness from God and forgiving others. In my own personal opinion, I believe forgiveness is one of the greatest manifestations of the Holy Spirit and the Believer working together towards the shared goal of Christ-likeness. Since the cross is the ultimate expression of love and forgiveness, so too, I believe, the ultimate expression of the Holy Spirit working in one’s life is love and forgiveness.
4. Authentic Accountability: Living our lives with the Spirit of truth also means we must be honest and open about where we are, especially those with whom we live in close community with. I’m not saying we have to tell the world our deepest, darkest secret. However, it is important to bring our sins and faults into the light through authentic accountability and partnerships within the discipleship process so we can grow, learn, and mature spiritually (Job 12:22, Isaiah 29:15-16, Ephesians 5:13; 1 Corinthians 4:4-5, James 5:16). This is a process that will not only keep us humble but will also help us to overcome our sins together in community.
5. Sabbath: Taking rest is quite literally every person’s God-given right. The American Dream has often corrupted that ideology and asserts you have to burn yourself out if you want to be worth anything. Many Pastors have also fallen into this same trap. Busyness makes you believe that burning yourself out for Jesus is the Lord’s plan for your life. It makes you believe that if you aren’t doing something, you’re failing, losing, or worse – sinning. But that was never God’s intention (Genesis 1-2; Exodus 23:12). You cannot be effective to anyone, including Jesus, if you are burned out (Mark 6:31-32). Spiritual transformation requires rest, retreat, and rejuvenation (Isaiah 40:30-31). Do not confuse busyness with ministry.
6. Multiply: The final command of Jesus (Matthew 28:16-20) is in and of itself a call to make disciples. There’s a weird thing that happens when one teaches another person…they learn. Often times we learn better when we teach. Coming full circle in my discipleship plan of FLIPS (Follow-Learn-Imitate-Practice-Send Out), one is sent out and given authority to make disciples and to multiply. Healthy spiritual transformation will always endeavor to lead others to Christ and toward spiritual transformation. The spiritually transformed person recognizes the value of the Holy Spirit’s work in their life and sees the potential transformation in others.
7. Meditation seems to be a lost form of worship in American churches. I’m sure it has nothing to do with how busy we’ve become *sighs*. This wasn’t in my original set of answers, but the more I thought about “what else did I forget,” this was it. Meditation on Scripture is essential for spiritual transformation. It is how we learn more about God and transform our thought process. Colossians 3:2 is a perfect example of this. We must set our minds on Jesus and on heavenly things so that our minds and hearts will be transformed (Romans 12:1-2). It’s also a process that helps us to slow things down and “be still” with the Lord. Unlike Sabbath days, scriptural meditation is meant as a daily practice. There are all kinds of scipture references, so I will just put an link to them here.
Please note: this list is not exhaustive. Of course there are other things (i.e. prayer and regular scripture reading) that are essential for spiritual transformation. Those are obvious. However, I wanted to look at things other people aren’t really expounding on. Pastors and leaders often tell people that the key to spiritual transformation is “Prayer” and “Reading The Bible.” But there is more to the Christian life than just those things. There is more to spiritual growth and maturity than prayer and scripture reading. We need to break out of this monotonous cycle of cookie cutter Christianity we’ve allowed ourselves to be baked into. We need to go deeper! And I believe the above practices will help us move closer to that goal.