If you were to ask most evangelical Christians how people grow, we would say that you need to have a devotional life and you need to be involved in a small group. But, if you were to actually look at how Christians grow, what you would discover is that almost always Christians grow as they get involved in meaningful service to others. In fact, apart from service to others, it is very difficult to motivate people to practice spiritual disciplines or to motivate people to want to learn about sharing their faith.When asked what are the marks of a healthy Christian (a different list than the basic Christian disciplines) connected in community, I respond with small group, service, and significant financial giving. Nathan's "chopstick" concept is good but I'd have to insist that without significant giving (and perhaps he would include that within service), the level of commitment and the potential for individual growth is limited. Those three prongs convert the chopstick into a fork - which I personally prefer.
Dr. Howard Hendricks, from Dallas Theological Seminary, once said: “We begin to grow when we take responsibility for the growth of another person. Ministry to others is not an add-on to our growth, it is an essential ingredient.”
Erwin McManus, who pastors Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, wrote a book called An Unstoppable Force. He said, “A person who attends, but does not begin to serve, will drop out within a year. One can ponder all the research…on how to assimilate…new believers in the Body of Christ, but it comes down to one simple variable, if people begin to serve, they stick.”
We have had lots of discussions over the past several years about how to close the back door of our church. I think we often underestimate the importance of service. We talk about small groups and connecting people in small groups. But the picture I got ... was that it is almost as if we are trying to pick up food with one chopstick – the stick of small groups. We need a second stick, and that is the stick of service.
Eric Swanson ... [referring to Eph 2:8-10] ... evangelicals almost always omit Ephesians 2:10 in our understanding of what a person needs. It is true that every person has a God-shaped void, as the mathematician Pascal put it. But there is a second hole inside of every person, a purpose hole. And the purpose hole cannot be filled by prayer or bible study or small group attendance. The purpose hole is filled by engaging in the good works that God has prepared beforehand for us to do.