In Scripture we are given a call to our spiritual formation; and to do so, we must think, study, and ponder how His principles are to affect and impact us as He is Christ the Lord. We are to see Him, believe in Him, know Him, and thus obey Him so our entire life is infused in Him and His Way. Thus, we are called to make this happen by seeking His truth, His teachings, and to walk in His ways by trust. We are then called to do this with hope because He gives us the confidence to have courage and empowerment of faith, all because of who we are in Christ (Rom. 12:1-2; Heb. 2:9; 12:1-2).
· In 1972: Between one (1%) and twelve percent (12%) with an average of eight percent (8%) of people were in small groups, Bible studies, or some kind of accountability group.
· In 1982: Between two (2%) and eleven percent (11%) with an average of nine percent (9%) of people were in small groups, Bible studies, or some kind of accountability group.
· In 1992: Between seven (7%) and twenty (20%) with an average of twelve percent (12%) of people were in small groups, Bible studies, or some kind of accountability group.
· In 2002: Between eight (8%) and forty (40%) with an average of nineteen percent (19%) of people were in small groups, Bible studies, or some kind of accountability group.
· In 2007: Between nine (9%) and forty-one (41%) with an average of twenty-one percent (21%) of people were in small groups, Bible studies, or some kind of accountability group.
There seemed to be a four times increase in evangelical church's small group and Bible study participation between 1972 and 2007. Ironically, there also seemed to be a significant decrease in Bible literacy and knowledge during this time. Possible reasons for this, from our research, suggests that most of the Bible Studies, seventy percent (70%), did not use good biblical curriculum or teach the Bible, doctrine, or the basics of the Christian faith. Instead, most of these small groups seem to be sharing their lives, and some accountability is present (which is good too), but there is less and less concern with growing deeper in the Word and in our Lord. The solution is to train the leaders to teach, or use good resources that show God's precepts as well as model and challenge people to know and live for Him. The Christian life should be one of passion, excitement as well as responsibility, reason and faith all working together.
Research Conducted between 1998 and 2006: (there is no significant deviation between these years and thus no progress toward building healthy churches).
(For the next several points we list the statistical range. In the low to high, the low side tended (not always) to be Pentecostal churches; those on the liberal side and the high side tended to be the Bible teaching (such as Calvary Chapel) and Reformed congregations.)
The deviation seems to be based on how spiritual growth is perceived. Charismatic and Pentecostal churches see this as an experience that produces an emotional feeling, while the Bible-teaching churches center it on the knowledge of the Word. Reformed churches see it as growth in the faith and knowledge and how one has involved himself in the life of the church. Each group has valid schemes, but a balance must be sought so to never countermand God's revealed truth.
· 45% to 85%+ of Evangelical Christians believe that their relationship with God is the highest priority in their daily personal life. (Here the Pentecostal churches were on the high side and the Reformed on the low).
· 30% to 70%+ of Evangelical Christians believe that spiritual maturity should be a focus of their church; the higher the level, the healthier that church would be. (The Pentecostal churches saw spiritual maturity as experiencing God more and the conservatives saw it as the knowledge of God's principles and their application; it is our belief that both are essential).
· 40% to 79%+ of Evangelical pastors feel their role is to teach the Bible so to stimulate their church to grow and practice faith.
· 51% to 80%+ of Evangelical pastors feel their role is to be good teachers of biblical principles, thereby stimulating their church to grow and practice faith.
· 60% to 80%+ of Evangelical pastors feel their role is to be a good role model so to stimulate their church to grow and practice faith.
· 40% to 80%+ of Evangelical Christians practice spiritual maturity and discipline (daily Bible reading, prayer, Bible study). They tend to practice it at home but not glean it at church.
· 50% to 80%+ of Reformed Christians practice spiritual maturity and discipline. They tend to glean it at church but not practice it at home.
· 10% to 40%+ of Pentecostal Christians practice spiritual maturity. They tend to not glean it at church and few practice it at home. Yet, they tended to be more "passionate" with their spirituality than Evangelical or Reformed Christians.
· 40% to 80%+ of Evangelical Christians think that spiritual maturity is meant to be encouraged and taught in their church. The rest believe it is a private matter and the church should focus on such things as politics, outreach, missions, social activism, etc.
· 45% to 85%+ of Evangelical Christians believe that God expects them to grow in the faith.
· 65% to 80%+ of Reformed Christians believe that God expects them to grow in the faith.
· 60% to 85%+ of Evangelical and Reformed pastors believe that God expects them to teach and inspire the growth of their people's faith.
· 10% to 30%+ of Evangelical Christians are in small groups. (Some churches report over 60%.) The higher percentage correlates to the significance of that church's success and growth.
· 5% to 25%+ of Reformed Christians are in small groups. (Some churches report over 40%.) The higher percentage also correlates to the significance of that church's success and growth.
· 2% to 20%+ of Pentecostal Christians are in small groups. (Some churches report over 30%.) The higher percentage also correlates to the significance of that church's success and growth.
· 19% to 40%+ of Evangelical Christians are reading the Bible for personal devotions and spiritual growth. (Some churches report over 50%.) The higher percentage also correlates to the significance of that church's success and growth.
Research Conducted between 2004 and 2005:Small Groups
· We do not have accurate records for this, but the house or cell church movement is swiftly growing. At the same time, over 70% of the participants also go to another traditional church. Most of these churches are failing by seeking trends and not Christ, which is signified by the vast majority who are not sold on the idea. A heart after God should not look for God outside of His parameters of Word and Spirit.
· Less than 10% of churches reported that they felt they had a successful small group ministry; of those who felt theirs was not good, very few (29%) use the Bible or good, related curriculum, and even fewer (less than 10%) train their leaders!
· Fifty-one percent (51%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said there is no plan in place; some say the plan they have is not being used to absorb new members into the life of their church.
· Forty-nine percent (49%) of the church leaders and pastors surveyed said there was no plan or process in place for a mentoring or discipleship program; it was not even in the thoughts of over 60% of those interviewed.
It seems the same problem we have today was also in the early church, people want a feel good message and a shallow undisciplined and rarely practiced faith. When we are called to stretch, grow and reach for Christ in every daily encounter in our life. The key is to listen to God, His Word and precepts, and His Spirit, so we can put into practice His principles. But it does not begin or stop there. There must be a deep seated trust in Him, a conviction that runs deep. If not, we have little to show to others who Christ is and what He has done. If you are not practicing your faith, then there is little to show of a life of faith because Christ has worked a lot but not fully received by us and put into place.
© 2008, Research from 1972- 2007, R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D., Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development www.churchleadership.org