It is always my great joy to see individuals come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is flat out exciting to see people get saved. But once people get saved, now what? We definitely are not done with people once they respond to the gospel. Jesus said to ‘make disciples’ not ‘make decisions.’ We want new believers to grow and we want their faith to mature. We want them to be able to answer this question: what is life like as a Christian? Our book for this month is great for that.
The book is titled Christian Living Beyond Belief by Cliff McManis. Now, it has nothing to do with any type of hyper-spiritual devotional behavior. It is just 11 chapters about the basics of the Christian life. The chapters are on: worship, fellowship, joining a church, serving, discipling, giving, evangelizing, studying, praying, thinking, and obeying. It is an excellent way to summarize the basics of the Christian life. If I had enough copies of these, I would give one to each new believer that we had at the church. The chapters are short and simple and they come with some application questions at the end so this can be used in a small group setting as well.
Over the past few decades, the church growth movement has really had an effect on American Christianity. The positive effect of the church growth movement is that there has been an inspiring effort to see the gospel go forth to every individual. The negative effect of the church growth movement is that the emphasis has been placed on the person’s decision, and not necessarily the person’s continued maturity after the decision. As long as we can get somebody to say ‘yes’ then we are done. That is not the process of church growth and disciple making that the Lord outlined. That is why this book is so helpful. It shows a new Christian what the Biblical process is for personal spiritual growth.
But this book isn’t just for new Christians. This book is for all Christians. The author describes, in the introduction, a consistent problem he saw in the lives of the people he counseled and pastored. The problem he saw was a lack of personal spiritual development. Many believers that he encountered did not have any formal approach to practicing the Biblical principles necessary for spiritual growth. That means that many seasoned Christians did not have a regular habit of prayer, they did not have a regular habit of Bible study, or a regular habit of serving the church. I fear this is probably more widespread in Christianity and not just in his church.
If we are having trouble growing, we must look carefully to our habits and our commitments. We need to evaluate the process of spiritual growth from what the Bible describes, not what we think. This is why this book is a great reminder, a great recall, a great recap of the basics of Christian living. Every once in a while it is good to just take a step back from all the business of life and complications of the Christian life and just remind ourselves about the basics. Service, prayer, reading Scripture, giving, fellowship, etc. Those are the basics and we need to refresh our commitment to those things first. If you find yourself in a spiritual ‘rut,’ maybe this is the book for you. Maybe a call back to the basics is just what your faith needs.
Now, I do have to offer a bit of a disclaimer for this book. At the time of this writing this book is very hard to find. It doesn’t come up on Christianbook.com or Amazon.com. It might be pretty difficult to get hands on. I will keep a lookout for another place where this book can be found but anyone who wants to read it can always borrow mine!
-Pastor Mark Scialabba