You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less

This question is really a false dilemma. And I’ll talk about why shortly. But first, let’s look at the data.

Groups who saw their primary purpose as being more about reaching to others outside the group than growing spiritually were 53% more likely to be growing than those groups who saw their primary purpose as growing spiritually.

This didn’t come as a big surprise to me. Groups that see their primary purpose as reaching out are reaching out. And growing.

After seeing these results, though, I began to wonder about something else. Were groups who focused on reaching out in fact also more spiritually vibrant than those more inwardly focused groups? After all, you’d think that groups who focused on growing spiritually would also be more likely to report higher levels of spiritual vibrancy. I had certainly thought so until that very moment.

So, I probed the data further. Sure enough, I was wrong. Groups who saw their purpose as primarily about reaching out to others were exactly twice as likely to report the highest levels of spiritual vibrancy, compared with those who saw their primary purpose as spiritual growth.

The truth is, you can’t grow close to God without caring about what God cares about. Here’s a Bible trivia question for you—what is the context of this phrase: “Lo, I am with you always”?

It’s the Great Commission. Jesus taught that as we engage on mission with God in the task of advancing the kingdom, pushing back the darkness, we’re going to experience closeness to God that no Bible study can ever produce. (Please don’t think I’m anti-Bible study; I think my life proves otherwise.)

Many have experienced this phenomenon in the context of a mission trip. There was something that happened that went quite beyond the excitement of jet travel. God was there. As we engage on mission with God in fulfilling the Great Commission, God is with us in a special way.

This is one of the many things I love about speaking and writing and serving God. I feel close to God when I serve. You will too. Perhaps you’ve already experienced this. You were teaching children, organizing a ministry project, making a phone call to encourage a friend, making a hospital visit, or any number of things that might relate to your gifting and calling. All of a sudden, there was this sense that you were in the flow of God’s Spirit. God was there and it was powerful.

This is life at its best, but I didn’t always see it that way. Culture tends to give us the idea that life at its best is about leisure and relaxation, or that it’s about entertainment and excitement. Or, perhaps life at its best is about possessions and position. We don’t naturally suppose that our lives, at their best, are about… reaching out to and serving others.

We used to sing a simple chorus that went like this:

Praise Him! Praise Him!

Praise Him in the morning, Praise Him at the noon time.

Praise Him! Praise Him!

Praise Him when the sun goes down.

I’d smile and sing. I enjoyed that little chorus. Then, there was the second verse:

Thank Him! Thank Him!

Thank Him in the morning, Thank Him at the noon time.

Thank Him! Thank Him!

Thank Him when the sun goes down.

So far I’m still smiling and singing.

Then the third verse hits. I hated the third verse. I always hoped we wouldn’t sing the third verse.

Serve Him! Serve Him!

Serve Him in the morning, Serve Him at the noon time.

Serve Him! Serve Him!

Serve Him when the sun goes down.

I hated that verse because culture had taught me that life at its best was about leisure and entertainment and stuff. It was not about serving.

Forty years of serving God have taught me the opposite. Life at its best is about serving God near the sweet spot of your gifting. And, as a group, life at its best is about serving God together—each one using the gifts that God has given him or her to serve God in pushing back the darkness and letting our light shine.

This is what is wrong with the sit-and-soak group. A group that wants to “just get closer and closer to God,” but doesn’t care one whit about bringing others closer to God, can’t get close to God themselves. God is always on mission. Henry Blackaby taught us that if you want to get near to God you must join God in what God is doing. And God is moving. Therefore, if you want to stay near to God, you must stay moving.

Jesus said, “My Father is always working” (John 5:17). God is always working. He is moving. He is like the wind. If we would draw near to God, we must keep up with him. There is a time to be still and know that he is God. But, there is also a time to get off the Mount of Transfiguration and get down in the valley where the people are. God is moving. We must be moving as well. We must join God in what God is doing.

A group that is on mission with God in growing and reaching is not only more effective in growing and reaching, but they’re also more effective at getting people closer to God—including themselves. If you want to increase the spiritual depth of your group, engage them on mission in serving God and reaching out beyond the confines of your group.