Spiritual Growth Begins with Discomfort

When a Bible study group member becomes aware of an unmet biblical expectation, an attitude that's out of order, or a paradigm that needs to be overhauled, the leader must gently raise the bar of expectation and move that person toward action.

One of the keys to spiritual growth is knowing and living the Bible (James 1:22). When a Bible study group member is learning the Bible and becomes aware of a biblical expectation that is not being carried out, an attitude that is out of order, or a paradigm that needs to be overhauled, the leader must gently raise the bar of expectation and move that group member toward action.

Spiritual growth occurs when the following phases are recognized and carried out:

Phase 1: The small-group member recognizes a biblical expectation.

Phase 2: The member experiences discomfort when he becomes aware of his need to change a belief or act on a biblical obligation.

Phase 3: The small-group leader wisely guides the group member toward action

Phase 4: The member makes the decision to do what's right rather than what's easy.

Phase 5: The small group member commits to the action.

Phase 6: The leader and other group members celebrate with the individual who has courageously moved beyond his comfort zone.

Phase 7: The individual experiences growth and is more easily motivated to take on the next challenge to obedience he encounters in the Bible.

Some will say that a small group should be comfortable and that expecting people to do something out of their comfort zone is asking too much. But when the apostle Paul told a young pastor what Scripture does, he wrote, "All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Holman CSB).

Most of us don't like to be taught. We despise being reprimanded and are embarrassed when we are corrected. Training is hard work. Obviously, the Words of God are uncomfortable to know and even more uncomfortable when they demand a changed mindset or lifestyle.

Andy Rooney nailed it when he gave us these wise words, "Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it." It's the responsibility of the leader not only help the small group member get to the top of the mountain, but to motivate him toward the precipice and encourage him along the way. In most instances, encouraging group members to change a paradigm or shift a lifestyle choice is uncomfortable. But that's where spiritual growth begins.

Rick Howerton travels around the country as consultant and trainer to teach churches how to build small-group ministries. He is founding pastor of The Bridge Church in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Rick has authored Destination: Community - A Small-Group Ministry Manual from Serendipity House, and is co-author of Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups. He and his wife, Julie, make their home in Franklin, Tennessee.