This book is based on the results of the REVEAL study conducted by Willow Creek Association, in which they surveyed congregation members from more than 1000 churches across the United States of all denominations. From the results, Willow Creek was able to identify a clear spiritual growth continuum that a believer follows as they mature in faith, as well as specific catalysts that initiate movements forward along that continuum. The survey results also provided insight as to what people expect from their churches and leaders as people move through the various phases of spiritual growth. This book explained each of the phases, catalysts and the “best practices” of the churches that most successfully create an environment of active spiritual growth among the majority of their members.
The only glaring negative aspect of this book is probably more of a personal preference: it was hard for me to read survey results in book form. The results were listed as statistics, graphs, charts, diagrams and explained in narrative -- so I think whatever format you are comfortable with, you will get the gist. For me, reading through the explanations was a little confusing. I had to focus a lot more to digest what it was saying. But the content was wonderful!
I think this book can be a very helpful tool for pastors and leaders wanting to learn more about the spiritual dynamics of their churches and how they can be more effective in how they influence spiritual growth. However, I found that the book not only intrigued me as a church leader, but also as an individual follower of Christ. I thought it was most interesting to read about the phases of growth and the catalysts that move believers from one level of spiritual maturity to another. I could identify where I think I am on the continuum and see the catalysts I struggle with…and that perhaps I should challenge myself to do so I can continue to grow.
I’ll try to summarize the concept of the continuum and the catalysts: The survey results helped identify four phases of the spiritual growth continuum. These are Exploring Christ, Growing in Christ, Close to Christ and Christ Centered. Catalysts are things the believer will do on a consistent basis (not just one time acts) that will initiate and promote growth. These can be reading the Bible, serving at church, evangelism, giving and so on.
For each movement from one phase to the next, the study was able to identify the top five catalysts that move the believer to the next level. Some of the phases share catalysts, many were unique to that phase of growth. However, I found it interesting (though not surprising) that the one catalyst that appeared in the top five of each phase was “Reflecting on Scripture.” How very true that no matter where you are spiritually, it is essential to be in God’s Word for substantial growth to take place!
And even more personally challenging, I discovered those catalysts that I have yet to take hold of…but I so desire to do. The attributes of a believer that this Christ-centered are so sacrificial, so rooted in love for God and people. It is not an impossible life to live, but one I have not yet fully achieved. After reading this book I was challenged to open my heart to God’s leading so I can discover the self-sacrificing acts (catalysts) He has for me, that I may know Him more, love Him more and fulfill His commandment to love others as He did. What a challenge!