I have been challenged this past year or so to re-think some of my previous patterns of personal growth and my walk with God. Very simply, I am a bit of a “morning person” and I enjoy reading Scripture, along with a broad spectrum of theology, leadership, the church, etc. So, my pursuit of intimacy with God and my slow, steady progress toward greater spiritual maturity has included rather little involvement by others. This has been more out of practice than out of conviction.
Sure, I have several great groups and teams of ministry leaders around me on a regular basis, and I love to “mix it up” with various gatherings of ministry leaders and pastors. However, I haven’t really “leaned on” fellow members of the Body in ways that might otherwise have been quite profitable. Candidly, it was only as I began to struggle with some cynicism that I reached out to a handful of men who, to my great benefit, consistently over time, have come alongside of me with their wisdom, insights, and most importantly, their genuine care.
“If you are going to help people grow, you must understand the necessity of relationship for growth. Often people in the church who are teaching others how to grow eliminate the role of the Body. In fact, sometimes these people teach that their students don’t need people at all, that Christ alone is sufficient or that his Word or prayer is enough. They actively and directly lead others to not depend on people at all… But the Bible teaches that all these things are part of the process, including other people. So, as we talk about all the different aspects of how people grow, we want to emphasize loudly the role of the Body.”1
Here’s the main emphasis of an excellent book on what the Bible reveals about this:
“Biblical growth is designed to include other people as God’s instruments. To be truly biblical as well as truly effective, the growth process must include the Body of Christ. Without the Body, the process is neither totally biblical nor orthodox.”2
On the necessity of being connected for maximum spiritual impact and fruitfulness: “People’s most basic need in life is relationship. People connected to other people thrive and grow, and those not connected wither and die. It is a medical fact, for example, that from infancy to old age, health depends on the amount of social connection people have. Infants and older people die from lack of relationship, and those in the middle suffer and fail to recover from illnesses.”3
If, by design or default, you have gravitated toward a bifurcation of “intentional disciple-making” and otherwise caring for fellow members of the Body as they navigate life’s many challenges and obstacles, I appeal to you to reintegrate the two.
(1-3 How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth, Chapter 7, “God’s Plan A: People,” Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, Zondervan, 2001)