Growing the Church Through Biblical Training

The Whole Training Process

We need to catch a picture of the whole training process. When we do, we will see how easy it is to build up the church of God. Without this overall picture, we end up being confused and oftentimes guilty. We sense we ought to train our people, but we just do not know where to start. Most churches have sermons, Sunday School for children[3] and maybe (getting rare) a Wednesday night Bible study.

If a pastor does start up some special training, he can easily get frustrated and give up. But this world is relentlessly grabbing at the hearts of our people, whether they are young and old. The church leaders need to persist in implementing effective training. Just about any statistics analyzing the Christian scene will verify the dangers that we feel.

The FLOW is a picture of a river that helps us understand this whole training process in the Christian church.  The diagram helps us to gain insight on not only how an individual or family is strengthened, but on how a whole congregation or denomination can grow.

The FLOW is a simple image, but because it includes all the separate parts together, it provides a powerful and easy means to understand the overall health of our church. Not only this, it helps us diagnose the problems our church is facing and understand the steps to solving the problems. Effective training brings enlightenment from God’s Word by the gracious outpouring of light from the Holy Spirit. The revealing of God’s truth enables God’s people to overcome the many problems that they might face.

The diagram captures and portrays the key elements of growth. Through it we can really understand the process God’s people grow. There are two main biblical concepts that need to be explained to fully grasp this train process. Each biblical concept is taught in numerous places but we will focus on two key passages.

The Process of Christian Growth (1 John 2:12-14)

1 John 2:12-14 uses the analogy of physical growth to describe three stages of Christian development. At each stage of growth, Christians face a certain kind of struggles. Christians at each stage of growth are given special instructions to keep them going forward in the path of growth. This has been described in full elsewhere.[4] For now, however, we will look at how the three stages of the young, teen and adult (children, young men, fathers) relate to and build upon each other.




12) I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake.

13) I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.

13) I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.

14) I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

13) I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.

14) I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.

Children are unstable and need security.

Young men face special temptations that must be overcome.

Fathers step closer and closer to God in order to find life solutions.

The new Christian learns about what the Christian life is and how to live it.

The young Christians master the fight over the world, Satan and flesh by God's Word.

The mature Christian develops a deep and strong faith to carry out God's work.


Just as in physical growth, spiritual growth develops in stages too. Christians need to learn things at one stage before they are ready to learn other things at higher stages. The diapers come before the pants; the bottle before the cup; the spoon before the chopsticks. We all are familiar with this and have accepted it, but the concept seems hard to apply to our spiritual growth.

After we identify each stage of a Christian’s growth and its associated needs, then we can implement effective training by meeting those needs through teaching God’s Word. Let’s look at a few brief but true examples.

From 1 John 2:12-14 we know that new Christians (the children) need clarification on their belief in Christ. They get confused about three things: sin, forgiveness and their belonging to God’s family. Any training that we give new Christians should include discussion on these topics so that they can grow and be strong. If not, they will be like a little plant that is weak and tipping to the side.

The young Christian’s (literally ‘young men’) greatest challenge is meeting temptations. They can get so discouraged in life through their failures. They will wonder if they have any chance in successfully battling the evil one. They need to be trained (think discipled) on how they are already winners and how God’s Word helps them to be victors in different areas of their lives. We see the same situation with the third grouping of Christians, the fathers or adults. John clearly identifies these three key stages to Christian growth.

The FLow: growing to be like the Lord jesusWe can in response to these biblical truths design or use discipleship materials that meet the needs of Christians at certain stages in their lives so that they can grow and move on to the next level. We do not want to get sidetracked by that very interesting study now however. We are trying to understand the overall process by which the Spirit of God is able to build up holy churches filled with strong individual Christians.

1 John 2:12-14 is only one of many biblical pictures that are given to us to help us understand the process of Christian growth. They all help show the interrelationship between the stages of development. I John’s passage helps a bit more because of the clear instruction for each stage. The Flow is a picture that keeps reminding us of our end goal of growth. Not one of the three groups is allowed to remain motionless.

The image of a river flowing downstream has a natural urge to keep moving along. Just like physical growth, there is a tendency for spiritual development to keep advancing. God builds that growing process into the church. Certainly ‘church growth’ is not an unbiblical concept if it ultimately refers to the process of Christian growth. Effective training or discipleship consists in enabling good and proper growth just like we do when we feed good vegetables and nutritious items to our children.

The need for good food is essential for life. God has linked up the need with the drive to eat. The desire to eat produces certain life patterns including farmers, processing food and meal times. Nutritional deficiencies stunt or distort growth.

The wise pastor designs special training sessions that work along with the Christian’s natural desire to be built up by God’s Word.

The spiritual life is the same. Christians have spiritual needs. They naturally seek fulfillment of these needs. God has linked up a thirst for God’s Word with their desires. Like children, however, they can be fooled and eat unhealthy things. They need to be cared for. They need pastors to feed them and train them to eat the right things.

Christians want growth; they want those truths that enable them to rightly function. Good training materials work along with that natural longing to be fulfilled by the truth of God’s Word and the manifestation of His presence so they can properly serve.

Unless a Christian grows at the more basic level, they will never be able to grow in the later stages of development. A river flows. It needs to cross one path before the other. We never should be content with just adding members to our church or even providing a simple basic discipleship course, even though this is very important. Christians must keep growing. In order to rightly understand this dynamic of growth, we also need to understand with John that those good desires to grow are not always equally met resulting in sad reports.

See what forces hold back training next.

Biblical Foundations for Freedom

by Paul J. Bucknell

[3] The Sunday School movement is not very old and needs to be reanalyzed. Its original function is totally different than on how it is presently being used.

[4] Designing Discipleship Curriculum goes in detail the discussion of what needs to be provided at John's suggested three levels.