I received a question about how to grow as a Christian and what advice I would offer to someone who was recently converted on how to “practically” mature in the faith. The person specifically stated “I need a literal path, not just read your Bible, attend church, etc.”
My response is below. Feel free to copy it and use it in your own relationships. Make sure to change relevant portions to make it personal. I removed any identifying information, as well.
Or maybe you are a new believer. Feel free to contact us for help finding a church.
First of all, I want to impart my sincerest gratitude for reading my book From Death to Life. A lot of work goes into writing and publishing so I appreciate you taking the time to tell me you enjoyed the work. I am glad you found it beneficial.
I’m thankful for technology today and that you found an avenue to reach out to me. I hope to offer some helpful advice to your questions. I love the heart of the questions as it seems that you sincerely want to grow and help your friend grow.
Now, let me offer as strong an exhortation as I can that you must tell your friend to be involved in a local church. I don’t mean simply “attend church.” I mean to be an active, functioning, involved member of a local church.
I understand that telling you to “go to church” may sound cliché, but none of the rest of my advice will be worthwhile if you don’t heed this first exhortation. Christians need leaders they can be instructed by, submit to, and imitate (Heb. 13:7, 17). These pastors are charged with watching over you, protecting you, and teaching sound doctrine, among other things.
You also need to encourage fellow believers and to be encouraged by them (Hebrews 10:24-25). You need fellow believers to rebuke you when you sin (Hebrews 3:13, Galatians 6:1), and you need to be involved in holding others accountable to live the Christian life faithfully (James 5:19-20). And when you do sin, your local church relationships is where you ought to confess your sin (James 5:16). There really is no Christianity, in the New Testament sense of the word, without love for brothers and sisters in the local church (1 John 3:14).
Practically, however, what might that look like? I would look for a solid church. If you want to share where you live (or your friend) I can try my best to help find biblical churches. Once you find a church that is solid, attend regularly. Attend all the meetings that you can. Plug yourself into a small group or Sunday school class. Sit hungrily under the preaching and teaching of the Word. Ask questions when you can. Covenant together with these people in formal membership and submit to the church’s teaching and direction.
When it comes to Bible reading there is no cookie cutter approach. The key is to read and keep reading. Read every day. I will offer a few suggestions; but they are only suggestions. One approach is to take a small book of the Bible, say Ephesians. Read Ephesians 1-2, 3-4, 5-6 on Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday. On Thursday, read the entire book. On Friday read Ephesians 1-3 and on Saturday Read Ephesians 4-6. Use Sunday to read another chapter or area of the Bible. If you did this plan you would be reading Ephesians through 3x every week. Try that until you’ve read through the book about 20-25 times. You will be amazed at the clarity you will begin to receive.
As you read, take notes. Make note of repeated words, concepts, and ideas. Pray through portions of the text. Try to memorize key passages and even longer passages as you are able. Meditate on the text, meaning, think deeply about portions that you read through (a verse or 2 or 3). Apply what you are reading to your life. Discuss what you are reading with others. Ask your elders or trusted friends questions about what you read.
Another approach to Bible reading is to start in Genesis and just read every day. Wherever you stop one day, start back there the next. Read until you’ve read the whole Bible through. With only about 15 minutes a day, you can get through the Bible in a year.
Another approach is to start with the New Testament and read it through a few times and then move to the Old Testament. Again, there is no cookie cutter approach. Trust Scripture. Keep reading it, keep seeking, and keep praying for the Lord to give you understanding (Psalm 119:18).
As far as core doctrines go I think it is essential to understand who God is. A study on His attributes would be a beneficial endeavor for many Christians. The Attributes of God by A.W. Pink, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, The Glory of Christ by John Owen, and The Pleasures of God by John Piper have all been influential books in my life. As far as what the gospel is books like What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert, The World Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips, Gospel Deeps by Jared Wilson, and The Gospel According to Jesus by John Macarthur are good books. For Christian living see Holiness by J.C. Ryle, The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung, Spiritual Disciplines by Don Whitney, and Habits of Grace by David Mathis.
But I really cannot stress enough the importance of being regularly involved in the life of a solid local church. I’m not just saying “attend church.” I’m saying go, serve, love, submit, hold accountable, and receive correction in a local church.
I hope this letter has been instructive. I blog regularly at ThingsAbove.Us with some trusted brothers. I would love for you to check it out and subscribe. Hopefully, you’ll find the content beneficial to your walk, as well.
All glory be to Christ our King,