This is the first of three Relevant Ministry Responses research suggests may be critical to ministry sustainability in a “Digital Age”. The last three months we’ve pondered the “Six Underlying Movements” influencing culture. You may recall “Underlying Movements” are those unseen influences lurking below the surface that provoke people to act differently.
A bit of context
The first Underlying Movement, the “Digital Age”, explored how we are processing our world so very different. We want to be engaged, participate, connect, and demand answers without the varnish and protection……we want it straight (see the thumbnail). We long for authentic relationships, pragmatic answers, and things “Vintage”. This post a few weeks back expresses this longing well: This Generation Loves “Authentage” (Authentic + Vintage)
The limitations of attractional ministry
This love for “Authentage” seems to be driving a deep interest in an authentic, and even what some perceive as a vintage, relationship with God as well. Research the past three years at Willow Creek in Chicago is revealing a growing interest in something far beyond a great weekend presentation. Willow believed the research would reveal that as people engaged in their church programs, they were developing deeper Spiritual Attitudes (love for God and love for others) and Spiritual Behaviors ( tithing, evangelism, serving, etc) as the graph above illustrates. However, what they learned was their programs had little to no effect on developing these desired attributes. Yes, little to no effect. See the graph here to the right for the actual results. Al Hirsch found the same result at his Australian church in the 90′s and wrote about it in his recent book “The Forgotten Ways”. What Al and others are now concluding is this attractional ministry model (excellent preaching, inspiring worship, excellent CE, small groups, etc.), without substantive discipleship programs and missional outreaches, simply create “spiritual consumers” with little growth in spiritual attitudes or behaviors.
So where to from here?
What does ensure transformed lives and a deep sense of sacrificial covenant community? Willow Creek’s research and resulting book titled, Reveal suggests one critical piece. They found maturing Spiritual Attitudes and maturing Spiritual Behaviors where they found people growing in their relationship with Christ Himself. Transformed lives simply weren’t the result of programs or attractional ministry efforts.
Willow observed how people grew in their relationship with Christ and segmented that growth into four distinct categories to help explore and assist their growth. You can see the four categories in this chart.
Interesting isn’t it that this Willow research involving over 1000 surveys and 100 face-to-face interviews discovered that as people began to know Christ and sacrificed all things to gain Him, their Spiritual Attitudes and Behaviors grew as well. The final chart here illustrates that correlation. As people grew and progressed in their relationship, and hence through the four categories Willow defined, their attitudes and behaviors grew as well. Spiritual maturity and transformed lives just wasn’t about programs and weekend worship. The Reveal study clearly suggests that if we are to help people mature past simple spiritual consumption, our ministries must include intentional Christ-Centered Growth.
So what is the role of programs and weekend worship? How does discipleship fit in, and what does all this mean regarding how we design worship facilities………what do you think?