By Robert E. Guinn
Why has attendance been greatly stressed among God’s people in the past? We cannot ignore that the attendance changes between different Bible classes and worship services on Sundays and Wednesday evenings. Are elders and spiritual leaders just being “nit-picky,” or is there a deeper issue that concerns our fellow Christians when they see our lack of participation?
We have approximately 168 hours in a week. If we attend ALL of the regular congregational worship services and studies, we have made a four hour investment in our spiritual development. That is roughly 2.4% of our week’s time that we dedicate to God. What about Christians that are a part of congregations that only meet once or twice a week? Then that percentage theoretically will go down. If we invest nothing else into our spiritual lives, these numbers look sad compared to the amount of time we spend on entertainment and other non-spiritual things.
It seems that, even though attendance has been the measure of faithfulness in the past, congregational worship and study should be viewed as the mountain top of what we are consistently investing in our personal spiritual development. We know that faith is built upon our access to, meditation on, and devotion toward God’s word (Romans 10:17). The great salvation provided through Jesus Christ should provoke us to want an intimate relationship with the Creator, desiring to seek His ways over ours. As the Psalmist said: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you,” (Psalm 119:11, ESV).
Why is personal study so important? Faith is described in the New Testament as the starting point of spiritual development and growth (2 Peter 1:5-10). Faith is also the Christian shield that protects us against the flaming arrows of the enemy (Ephesians 6). What happens when that shield is splintered, shattered, and/or broken? It needs to be repaired. Like a plant needing maintenance and care, so our faith needs to be watered, tended, and matured. Consider these five reasons we need to develop and grow our personal study of God’s word:
1. Personal study enables us to have a better understanding of spiritual things (Psalm 119:99).
2. Personal study is connected to our salvation, and the salvation of others who witness our faith (1 Timothy 4:11-16).
3. Personal study can help us better protect our minds and hearts (Philippians 4:6 -9).
4. Personal study gives us experience to better handle God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15).
5. Personal study better prepares us for fighting off temptation (Matt. 4; Luke 4).
The bottom line, however, is that no one can do this for us. We are responsible for our own spiritual growth and development. Are you satisfied with your current spiritual investments? I know I am not always satisfied with mine. Let’s take and make personal study personal!
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time… Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” (Ephesians 5:15-17, ESV).
- Robert Guinn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.