Have you grown in your faith lately? Recent data suggests we’re not developing and maturing our Christian faith as much as we might like.
When congregations were asked the question as part of the National Church Life Survey in 2016, 46 per cent of people indicated they had much growth in faith, which left 54 per cent reporting some or no growth. A July report by the Diocese’s Strategy and Research Group (SRG) further investigated how churches and Christians can effectively foster spiritual development.
The report showed some strong correlations between key church activities and growth in faith, such as faithful Bible teaching and training, building a strong Christian community and encouraging people to personally read their Bible, pray and share the gospel with others. In particular, those who reflected on God’s word most days were more likely to report “much growth”.
We asked four people to share what has helped their faith grow. If you’re like the majority of us and feel a bit stuck in your faith, here are four things you can do to help kick-start growth.
Sit under God’s word regularly
Hazel Bunyard of Park Rail Church found sitting under God’s word regularly with one other person from her church has helped deepen her trust in God in every situation.
“That’s been a real challenge for me in the past, and it’s something I’ve really grown in recently,” she says. “I can trust that God’s got my back… he has a plan, and if God asks me to forgive someone, it’s for a reason.”
"I can trust God's got my back. He has a plan"
For many years, forgiveness seemed like an impossible task for Mrs Bunyard. “When I first heard [Christians have to forgive], I walked out of church crying. I thought that God was asking too much of me. This year, God’s been able to help me do that. Being able to trust God and know that I’m so forgiven for all that I’ve done… that’s been a massive thing for me.”
There is joy and confidence in Mrs Bunyard’s voice as she explains how God has used one-to-one Bible reading.
“Each week we look at the Bible together, and if we have questions we can delve deeper,” she says. “It’s helped me to understand God’s word better. Before if I just opened the Bible, I wasn’t getting much out of it. Doing one-to-one has helped me to ask what stands out, to look for how God is working through a passage and [apply it]. Meeting one-to-one has made a massive difference. Because I’m reading more, I’m trusting more; it’s got a knock-on effect.”
Allow others to point you to God’s word
“Honestly this year has been a bit of a struggle with COVID and university,” says medical student Natasha Ting, of St Barnabas’, Bossley Park.
“I am honestly so thankful to my Bible study group [both at church and hospital] for continuing to persist in encouraging each other. I’m also immensely blessed to have friends who spiritually check in on me and who encourage me to continue looking to God.”
The fellowship of others and regular prayer have helped Miss Ting to continue to grow spiritually in a chaotic time.
“Although there are times where I feel far from God, spending more time in prayer has really gotten me through this year,” she says. “In terms of what has helped me grow in my faith, I would have to say my Christian brothers and sisters [in my] growth group. Without it, I doubt I would have really engaged with the Bible outside of Sunday’s sermons.”
Be challenged by God’s word
There’s nothing like having to prepare to teach the word of God to encourage spiritual growth. Mark Beesley of Park Rail Church found that, as he studied the passages, God challenged him to walk the talk.
“We were going through Exodus and the seven plagues – it really forces you to look at your relationship with God and look at how you practice what you preach,” he says.
“Humility is an area [I have grown in]. I was preaching on passages that had a lot to do with humbling yourself before God. There was a process of looking deeply into God’s word, understanding humility and how my sinfulness compared to God’s holiness. There was real growth there as I recognised how he exalts the humble and brings down the proud, and I had to have a hard look at my own pride.”
“You see what God says, listen to God and basically respond."
Mr Beesley believes this is a key aspect to growing in your faith and strengthening your relationship with the Lord. “He calls us to respond to him, that’s the way you grow, I think,” he says. “You see what God says, listen to God and basically respond. It’s all about repenting and obedience and working out that.”
Reflect on God’s word in the busyness of life
Juggling two young children, work and family life, Eagle Vale parishioner Tally Carmody knows how hard it can be to carve time out for God in the busyness of each day.
“I have grown most in my faith this year by learning other ways to meditate on God and his word,” she says. “This has helped me to be more prayerful, not just in a structured sense but also more conversationally and praying more throughout the day when the thought, or someone, comes to mind.
“This year, I think, has been helped by ‘visiting (more) good books’,” she adds. “For years – hello toddlers! – I’ve struggled to read and have finally made more time and had more opportunities to do so. I’ve focused more on Christian literature, too. That has helped me meditate more on God and to see him more relationally.”