The Interaction of the Means of Growth

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Author: 
Dennis McCallum

The Means of Growth refer to the avenues through which God most commonly conveys his grace to walking believers. But partaking of only one or two means of growth will not result in a proportionate level of growth. The means of growth are a way of life. They form a matrix of balanced living which is upset by the absence of even one. For instance, suppose a believer was involved in regular fellowship, read his Bible and ministered to others, but never, or only rarely prayed! This chart examines how the dynamic relationship between different means of growth works. Read Walking In Victory for the full commentary on the chart.

The Interaction of Prayer and Other Means of Growth
Fellowship Jesus gave corporate prayer a special place when he said, "if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 18:19) Based on this promise, we may fairly conclude that Jesus is implying that corporate prayer is more powerful than individual prayer, if only because when two or more agree, they have a better chance of truly discerning the will of God. The prayer ministry of the church is one of the most important.
Ministry A ministry weak in prayer will tend to be overly strong on human effort. What we cannot accomplish via the power of God, we will try to supply through our own power. As we lose faith in the effectiveness of prayer, we will succumb to the temptation to use force and compulsion on people in an effort to bend them to our will.
Scripture We need to pray that God will take scriptural truth and apply it to our lives in a living way. If we have learned the Scriptures in good measure, God will find it easier to bring us understanding about what he is doing in our daily lives.
Discipline of the Holy Spirit Cultivating the vertical perspective through abiding in Christ is a prerequisite for much of the Lord's discipline to be effective. As we shall see later, those who will not take their trials to God in prayer--not just to ask that the trial go away, but asking to understand what he is teaching--will not benefit from the suffering they undergo.
The Effect of the Word of God on the Other Means of Growth
Prayer In our prayer life, the Bible provides the proper basis for knowing God by telling us what he is like. According to Jesus, effective prayer is based on the Word (John l5:7). John promises that " . . .if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him." (I John 5:14) This is a powerful promise, but it is conditional. We have to ask "according to his will." But how do we know what the will of God is apart from Scripture?
Ministry Servanthood is a means of growth, but effective service involves "speaking the truth in love." (Ephesians 4:15) No ministry will have the power God wants it to have unless the one ministering is powerful in the Word of God. Even service ministers who may not teach or preach need the wisdom available in God's word. We will not be effective at ministry or in our personal growth if we can not fend off the attacks of Satan, and this is not possible unless we are able to cite our authority from the Scriptures.
Body Life The basis for Christian fellowship is not only love but truth. The Body of Christ is a community of truth, and these two can never be separated. In Philippians 1:9,10 Paul prays, "that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" Truth is the framework that makes real love possible. This is why we are called on to "speak the truth in love" to one another (Ephesians 4:15)
Discipline of the Holy Spirit The discipline of the Holy Spirit is a means of growth, but it won't be effective unless we respond appropriately. We need Scripture like that in Hebrews 12 to teach us how to respond to discipline in a way that promotes growth, as we shall see.
The Interaction of Fellowship With the Other Means of Growth
Prayer The church is to be a praying community. By precept and example, prayer plays a central role in the life of the church. It is reasonable to think that others can stimulate us to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24,25), including prayer. By establishing regular times to pray with others, we can strengthen our prayer habits, while gaining the discernment of the other members. Prayer is the spearhead of the church's ministry; opening doors, producing conviction in the hearts of those who hear, protecting those reached from Satan and granting spiritual empowerment to Christian workers.
Ministry The church exists to accomplish ministry, both to its members and to the world outside the church. Ministry carried out off by myself is never as impactful as that accomplished with others. I need to learn to disciple (train) others so they can carry on the same kind of ministry. I may have to be discipled myself before I can be effective at ministry, and this is best accomplished in a healthy local church.
Scripture The church should teach the Word of God. The church is ordered to equip its members to do the work of service. (Ephesians 4:11,12) Instruction in the Bible is central to this commission. The church should also use the Bible to ground new Christians and even for evangelism at its public meetings.
Discipline of the Holy Spirit When we are undergoing difficult times of spiritual discipline from the Lord, Christian fellowship is sometimes the only thing that keeps us from falling apart. We were never meant to undergo significant breaking without the support of a loving community. At the same time I receive support, I have the opportunity to give support and to coach young Christians on how to understand God's hand in their lives during trials.
The Interaction of Ministry and the Other Means of Growth
Scripture When others are looking to us for guidance and help in their Christian walks there will be a new urgency in our study of Scripture. This is because, as discussed earlier, Scripture holds the key to successful ministry. Feeding young believers the Word of God is basic to most kinds of ministry. Even service oriented ministry should be carried out in light of the Bible and should include the use of Scripture.
Fellowship The experience of living in a church which has developed an other-centered perspective, and a strong ministry ethic is truly one of the most edifying and exciting experiences possible. It is also one of the most difficult to find. When we have a church which has adopted ministry for all as its ethic, it will equip us and facilitate our ministry through the use of the combined man-power and financial resources in the church. The church becomes the natural place to bring guests and know that others there will not ruin outreach or discipleship efforts, but enhance them.
Prayer Those who are strong in ministry know how many times their ministries have spurred them on to intense periods of prayer. It is hard for such people to imagine what it would be like to feel the obligation to pray, but without the natural and healthy motivation created by ministry. As ministers, no longer are we merely praying because it's the right thing to do, or because we hope we can feel better as a result. Instead, there are real tasks to accomplish through prayer in the lives of others. Those who are established in defined and personal ministry consistently demonstrate more appreciation for prayer than those who are lacking this vital means of growth.
Discipline of the Holy Spirit We will see later that spiritual discipline is largely intended to make us more effective in ministry. At the same time being in ministry will cause us to experience maximum benefit from discipline. We regularly find that those who are tied into extensive ministry are prepared and able to endure the necessary suffering to be conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of those people who depend on their ministry. Those who are not active in ministry find it too easy to run in the face of painful discipline.