How People Grow

June 27, 2013

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For over twenty years, I have involved myself in teaching to and ministering to people with the hope of seeing them grow and change.

You are like me, I am sure. Whether it is parenting our children or leading an adult small group; we are not content to merely pass on information, creating a knowledge of God. We want the truth to impact and change people’s lives.

I’ve read countless books on growth and discipleship. Many of them attempt to quantify personal growth to a series of steps or principles.

While truth may be contained in these steps, if change were as simple as following the rules, we would all be in a very different place.

I may have just read the best book ever on this topic. In fact, it is one of those books where when reading it, you know you will read it again and again.

How People Grow: What the Bible Reveals About Personal Growth is the book I am referring to. The authors state the following about growth, “There is no formula for how the Holy Spirit (God) works in our lives. The best way to think about the Holy Spirit and growth is a moment by moment dependency on Him.”

It helps that the authors of this book are Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, writers of the popular Boundaries: When To Say Yes, How to Say No series. When it comes to helping people grow, these are the experts.

It was so refreshing to read a book on seeing people changed which focuses on the out working of grace in our lives.

Cloud and Townsend address the topic of grace by showing we often have a limited perspective on it.

“Many believe grace is forgiveness or lack of condemnation (and is limited to this.)”

But grace is unmerited favor, meaning God is for us. Since His favor cannot be earned, that means He wants to give it to us.

Rules and formulas are akin to the Law, which portray God as angry, telling people to do it themselves.

Grace says He is pleased and wants to help them.

They even show the radically different approaches to our failure.

Under self effort, you would say, “Im a failure, but I will try to do better, make a deeper commitment, and try harder.”

The grace approach has one approaching the throne of grace with confidence saying,  “I am unable to do this by myself and need the help of Creator God.”

Remember, this is the professionals, the PhD’s, who are saying this!

Radical!

Cloud and Townsend spend a lot of time speaking of this grace.

Grace is only effective when we understand our need for it. The Law does not help people change but it does provide awareness of spiritual death and our need for grace. People must come to a place where they say, “I can’t do it”

Rather than acknowledging our need for help, we often just try harder.

Cloud and Townsend go on to show how accepting and believing the truth is key towards seeing change in our behaviors. They do not advocate a weak grace or sloppy agape, even saying grace allows people to experience the consequences of their bad decisions to get to that point of saying, “I Need Help.”

There are tasks for the believer to engage in, just not the normal formulaic ones. Activities such as submission and obedience to God, declaring need and dependency, taking responsibility and ownership, as well as both the asking for and the receiving of forgiveness are part of the journey.

How about you? Are you relying on self effort or boldly approaching the throne of grace?

If you are in the business of seeing people grow, this is a must read, a must study, and a must meditate upon book.

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Chris

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God