Jan Johnson
Jan Johnson

What Is the Next Step?

After I speak to a church, I’m often told that folks would like to continue the path with God I’ve introduced them to – living their life “with God” as companion and teacher in all things. Since it’s always important to be asking God what our “next steps” are, here are some ideas to consider:

  • Start a small group in which people can together their life with God, answering these questions each time:  What do you think you’ve been hearing from God since last time? What do you want prayer for, or perhaps wish to be accountable for? These work best if each participant can speak without interruption.
  • If you’d like to learn more about spiritual formation, you might subscribe to Conversations (magazine).
  • A good follow-up book study is to use Invitation to the Jesus Life. It inludes Discussion Questions and Transformation Exercises for people to experiment with.
  • Try learning to meditate on Scripture, using exercises in Savoring God’s Word if you wish. A good book on learning how to do lectio divina in groups is Gathered in the Word by Norvene Vest.
  • Use Enjoying the Presence of God for a small group study to learn how to practice the presence of God. Questions are provided at the end of the chapters.
  • In a Bible study group, use one of the Spiritual Disciplines Bible Studies: Solitude & Silence, Study & Meditation, Worship & Celebration, Prayer & Listening, Service & Secrecy, Community & Submission, Simplicity & Fasting. Pay special attention to the Transformation Exercises.
  • Take a personal retreat, using one of the Personal Retreat guides: Learning to Hear God, Trusting God with Everything or Living in the Companionship of God.
  • If you’re part of a worship team, consider if it would help your team to have its own retreat, perhaps using the Spiritual Disciplines Bible Study: Worship & Celebration.
  • Tackle Dallas Willard’s landmark book, The Divine Conspiracy by yourself or with a few friends who want to be challenged. Yes, using Dallas Willards Study Guide to the Divine Conspiracy will help!
  • Ask a group of parents to study Growing Compassionate Kids with you. It has questions at the end. The hidden agenda of this book is to help me look at myself and see how I desire to be the hands and feet of Christ. After this, urge participants to read Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger by Ron Sider and subscribe to Prism.
  • Use Living a Purpose-Full Life for a small group study to discover, refine and focus your purpose in life. It includes fifteen full Bible studies at the end (you can pick and choose) as well as discussion questions at the end of the chapters.
  • Hold a retreat reflection brunch two or three weeks afterward. Have retreat attendees talk about what they’ve discovered about the major questions posed at the retreat. For example, for the Rekindling Your Spiritual Hunger retreat, it might be: What specific things am I now doing to seek God? (Session 1); Who and what have I found I need to surrender? (Session 2); What breaks my heart that breaks the heart of God? (Session 3); How am I building a belief in the deepest part of myself that God truly loves me? (Session 4). Perhaps such a group might even want to make a covenant to each other to meet for coffee or take walks together or study together, to take their relationships with each other seriously. (These ideas appear by the courtesy of the Westerly Rd. Church in Princeton, NJ.)
  • Dig into of the classics of the Christian faith (“books by dead folks”). Here are some places to start:
    • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis (the last half is really about spiritual formation). Also, The Four Loves and Letters to Malcolm are great places to start. Read his sermon, The Weight of Glory several times until you get it! Or, if you’ve never read anything by Lewis, buy his quote book and sit before it like a box of chocolates.
    • My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. The old version is great. The updated one really sings, although they changed things I don't like.
    • Imitation of Christ gathered by Thomas a Kempis Many translations out there.
    • Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (then move on to The Cost of Discipleship and others)
    • The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence (For years, I read this once a month to learn to practice the presence of God.)
    • Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Madame Guyon
    • A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie
    • Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly

Updated excerpts of the great classics are available:

Biographies of Charles Finney, Martin Luther, St. Anthony, St. Francis, John Wesley, George Mueller and so on. Many biography series are in print. I was particularly moved by Jonathan Goforth’s book, By My Spirit (now out of print, but findable!). Also, try The Journal and Major Essays of John Woolman or my edited biography of Madame Jeanne Guyon: Madame Jeanne Guyon.

Read these contemporary books by Dallas Willard:

These books by Richard Foster are a little more accessible:

  • Celebration of Discipline
  • Challenge of the Disciplined Life
  • Freedom of Simplicity


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