You can mass produce many things—cars, furniture, plastic bottles, etc.—but you can’t mass produce disciples. One-size-fits-all simply doesn’t work when you’re trying to help people become more like Jesus.
God wired each of us with a unique SHAPE. The Bible says, “You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13 MSG). Our creator specially designed each and every one of us. The unique ways God made us affect everything about us—including how we fulfill God’s purposes.
SHAPE is an acrostic that describes our uniqueness. God gave us Spiritual gifts, Heart (passions), Abilities, Personality, and Experiences. No one else in the world has the same mix of those five attributes as you do.
A person’s God-given SHAPE helps them identify where they can best serve the body of Christ.
But our uniqueness is about much more than how we serve. In fact, our SHAPE affects how we worship, fellowship, evangelize—and how we grow.
There’s a myth that maturity is measured by how much Bible knowledge you have.
Of course, that’s a factor in maturity, but it’s not the only one. We all know someone who’s a veritable storehouse of Bible knowledge yet is just downright mean. God’s Word hasn’t made it into their character. If maturity was just about learning as much of the Bible as possible, then we might all grow in the same ways.
But people grow differently. Some people learn by listening. If they hear it, they get it. Others learn through reading. Still, others grow best when they’re discussing truth with other believers.
We also know that many people grow by rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. Don’t give them the latest book on prayer; pray with them. Give them opportunities to serve. That’s how they grow.
The problem is that most of our churches only teach in one way. They expect everyone to grow through listening to someone talk. Auditory learners love that. But not everyone is an auditory learner.
It’s no accident that most churches have more women in discussion groups than men. Many women like to discuss. Many men like to act. They’re ready for action. There’s nothing wrong with either of those preferences. It’s how God wired them.
So, as you build a discipleship program in your church, you have to understand that the best way to help the most people grow is through multiple reinforcements.
That’s why I strongly believe in spiritual-growth campaigns. These short-term campaigns have multiple components, such as devotional reading, small group discussion, memory verses, ministry projects, and more. You teach the same truth through hearing it, reading it, talking about it, discussing it, doing it, and memorizing it. You do it all at once.
If you’re not using spiritual growth campaigns, I recommend giving it a try. As you engage them in different ways, you’ll see people who have stalled spiritually for years start growing.
Throughout the years at Saddleback, we’ve used several tools to help people grow through the unique ways God wired them. For example, SHAPE interviews help our members discover their God-given design so they can find ministry fits in the church. Not only does this get people connected to ministries, but it also helps them find out more about themselves so they can grow according to their SHAPE.
Another tool we’ve used is a spiritual health assessment, where you can evaluate your growth progress. The Bible tells us to examine ourselves. This tool gives people a tangible way to look into their spiritual lives. We’ve found this tool helps just about everyone, but it’s particularly good for those God wired to be more introspective.
Also, to help people who particularly enjoy being in nature, we created a prayer garden, where they can go to pray after every service.
But the tools aren’t as important as the principle. You can’t make cookie-cutter disciples. Though we all go through a discipleship process, everyone grows in different ways and at different rates.
Look for ways to expand the opportunities for people to grow in the unique ways God has wired them.