We all have so many ideas about what we need to grow. Conferences abound – they’re good aren’t they? – and there are all the worthy books you might read, they’re surely helpful? Some people are into blogs and podcasts too. Such vital media are surely valuable, are they not?
But, honestly, no. Not ‘no’ as in, they’re not valuable. All these things might be valuable. But no, you don’t need them to grow.
Throughout most of church history, conferences didn’t exist. The closest you ever got to them were various councils to which the majority of people never went. Just a bunch of bishops who apparently had long faces, halos behind their heads and two fingers strapped together that look like they want to do a v-for-victory sign but can’t be prised apart. Those same people who never went to conferences generally couldn’t read either. And that’s before we reckon with the fact that books were very much luxury items. Given that blogs have only existed for the last 20 years or so, and podcasts even less so, their significance for our growth probably can’t be understated. Given all of that, none of these things can be deemed vital.
So, what is required for your growth? What are the things that the Lord has given to us that are needed for us to grow?
Number 1, the one thing you cannot do without, the most vital of all vital things for your spiritual growth is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Without the third person of the Trinity dwelling in your heart, without his work of sanctification upon you, there will be no growth. There can be no growth. If we are discussing whatever is vital for growth, the Holy Spirit is fundamentally the one you absolutely cannot do without.
Let’s be clear exactly what we mean by this one. I do not mean reading the Word. Most Christian people, who have managed to grow perfectly well, have not been able to read it. If you read the BIble closely, you will find no command within its pages to read it. Which is interesting, isn’t it! But what they have not been able to do without is meditating upon the Word. They have not been able to grow apart from the Holy Spirit applying the words of scripture to their hearts. The Word is required for your growth.
The local church
The reason the church is vital for your growth is that this is the context in which most Christians were able to engage with the Word. The Early Church expected to have the teaching of the Apostles, and their letters, read to them in public meetings. For most of church history, God’s people engaged with the Word by hearing it preached. They meditated on it in community. And the Word is clear that the church is necessary for your growth. It is God’s means of not only teaching you the Word in community. But I say the local church because only it is able to hold you meaningfully to account on what you claim to believe. Church discipline, in community, is a God-given means of helping you to grow. Apart from the church, your growth is all but impossible.
Prayer is simply talking to God. We hear God speaking to us in his Word and we speak to him in prayer. As we pray in accordance with God’s Word, we are learning to align our will with his. The end of the Christian life is to become, ultimately, like Christ. As our wills begin to align with God’s, we grow in Christ-likeness. This is another means of growing God’s people.
Everything else, however helpful we may personally find it, is not mandated by God for our growth. Books, conferences, blogs, podcasts or anything else may all be useful – the Lord may even use them to form us in helpful ways – but none of these things are vital. We can live perfectly happy, Christian lives that grow up in Christ without any of those things. The only things we need are the Holy Spirit, the Word, the church and prayer.