Move: What 1,000 Churches Reveal about Spiritual Growth

“Just because people participate, doesn’t mean their heart is being transformed…”
This is a fascinating book… a fascinating study, and one of the most honest and objective examinations I have read on the state-of-the-church in my lifetime. Most studies I have read are to some degree biased, critical, and often written from an ivory tower perspective. This analysis, The REVEAL Spiritual Life Survey, is open and “real-time;” everything is put on the table and available for display to be “picked apart.” The honesty and humility of Willow Creek Community Church is refreshing and inspiring to me.

I remember in 2007 when I first heard the reports of the REVEAL survey and some of the less-than-kind soundbites and comments began to hit the blogs about Willow Creek Community Church. There seemed to be a lot of finger-pointing and “I-told-you-so” commentary lodged at the seeker-sensitive church communities that their method of creating disciples was shallow and non-effective. I think the REVEAL Survey as told through Move proves that churches of every size, method, budget, and doctrine face similar challenges in helping people to become fully developed followers of Jesus.

The book is set into three major divisions (although the introduction and appendices are extremely well thought out and helpful pieces to the book as a whole): Part 1—The Spiritual Continuum, Part 2—Spiritual Movement, and Part 3—Spiritual Leadership. The Spiritual Continuum identifies four primary movements of spiritual growth in an individual’s life; they are exploring Christ, growing in Christ, close to Christ, or Christ-centered. Each of these movements are discussed with detail in part one—The Spiritual Continuum.

Part 2—Spiritual Movement discusses among other things, the catalysts of spiritual growth and barriers to spiritual growth. It is in this section that criteria and general “attitude” statements are identified that can be used as a metric for measuring where an individual is on the spiritual continuum (ie., exploring Christ, growing in Christ, close to Christ, or Christ-centered). There are “Top-Five” lists generated from the survey data that indicate the most influential catalysts for each stage of spiritual growth. It should be no surprise that the content and the order of these catalysts are different for each stage of growth.

Part 3—Spiritual Leadership presents some very sobering data in chapter eleven, The Spiritual Vitality Index. This index is determined from each church’s survey results and measured in three categories: the church’s role, personal spiritual practices, and faith in action. The use of this measuring tool was instrumental in identifying churches with “best practices” for creating healthy disciples of Jesus. The remainder of part three discusses in detail the best practices (get people moving, embed the Bible in everything, create ownership, pastor the local community, and lead from a Christ-centered heart).

There is an incredible amount of data discussed and illustrated in pie-charts, bar graphs, and side-bar charts. As stated in the forward by Bill Hybels and disclosed in the appendices, there were 1,000 churches and over 250,000 congregants surveyed over four years for the gathering and analyzing of this data and I thought it was very thoroughly and well presented. I think it is part of the human condition that we like to boast and display numbers that put us in favorable light, but we don’t like them so much when they REVEAL us in less than flattering condition. This survey and the data uncovered in it remind me of the old children’s folk tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. In the folk tale the Emperor was sold an “invisible suit” of the most beautifully dyed and tailored silks and fabrics known to mankind. The Emperor walked around for days displaying this suit which, in reality, was his birthday suit before someone was bold and honest enough to share the truth of his nakedness to him… This book can help us as a church of disciples, followers, leaders, explorers, and teachers become all that our God desires for us. I’m sure there will be scoffers and critiques, but wisdom will read this book with openness and objectivity with the desire to learn and grow. A must read.