I shared my experiences with my various men’s groups. Then I explained the five things that showed up in everybody’s faith story. One by one, the members of our team acknowledged how each of these five dynamics had played a role in their spiritual formations as well. It was a defining moment for our team. We decided that if this was how God grew people’s faith, we should create a ministry model that continually pointed people back to these five dynamics. If these were the essential ingredients to big faith, we should build our entire model around them. So that’s exactly what we did.
Early in our discussion someone suggested we name these things. As you will see, they aren’t steps or principles. I often refer to them as dynamics. But that can mean a lot of things. I think it was Reggie Joiner who suggested the term catalysts. So from that point forward, we’ve referred to these as the five faith catalysts. During our weekend services, I sometimes refer to them as five things God uses to grow your faith.25
As you might expect, you won’t find this list anywhere in the Scriptures. Remember, this list is the result of what we’ve observed. We’ve made no effort to make the list complete or balanced. These five things are what surface on their own when people tell their faith stories. Since those early days, we’ve tested our theory on numerous occasions. For several years, Reggie Joiner incorporated the five faith catalysts into his leadership training for student pastors. In one exercise he would write each of the five on a three-by-five card, turn them over so no one could read them, and then attach them from left to right across the top of a planning board. Then he would ask his audience to think through the things that contributed most to their spiritual development, good and bad, and begin calling them out. He would write down whatever came to their minds on cards and tack them under one of the five catalyst cards across the top of the board. When everyone had finished sharing, he would turn the cards over to reveal the five catalysts. Time after time, summer after summer, everything these leaders threw out as major factors in their spiritual development fit at least one of the five.
As I’ve stated throughout this book, I’m not expecting you to do what we do. But we are absolutely convinced that these five things reflect the way faith is developed. We’ve presented this idea to church leaders from every church background imaginable. Each time we do, we walk away even more convinced that these five things represent the common ground for faith development. I’m convinced this is how God works in spite of how we organize and program our churches. But imagine what would happen if we actually organized and programmed in concert with the way God works? We believe that what we’ve seen over the past seventeen years is a direct result of our efforts to do just that. So for the remainder of this section, I’ll walk you through the five faith catalysts, along with examples of how we’ve allowed them to shape our programming as well as our model.
In case you have to leave early, I’ll go ahead and give you all five upfront. Yes, they all start with the letter “P.” No, I’m not a fan of lists that all begin with the same letter. This is one of those rare cases in the history of list making when someone didn’t have to force a word to fit the motif.
The Five Faith Catalysts:
- Practical Teaching
- Private Disciplines
- Personal Ministry
- Providential Relationships
- Pivotal Circumstances
Andy Stanley, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012).