A few weeks ago, my toddler son and I decided to go for a walk in our neighborhood which happens to have a lot of hills. It wasn’t long until I found myself panting and struggling to push a stroller up another hill, realizing the disappointing truth: I was out of shape. A few years ago, I could go on a decently-paced run through the neighborhood. Now I could barely make it up a few hills.
Sometimes we are more out of shape than we realize, and this can be just as true spiritually as it is physically. Instead of “forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead” (Phil. 3:13, CSB), we can grow complacent and stagnant, relying more on past spiritual growth than current progress. We can begin to stop looking for God working around us, start giving in to sinful temptations and neglect the daily steps of walking with Christ.
In our ministry at the BCM in Tuscaloosa, we use five weekly questions based on the acronym SHAPE to help our students evaluate their walk with Christ. These aren’t meant to be legalistic boxes to be checked but guides to help evaluate spiritual health to see what areas may need attention. Let’s walk through them:
1. What is God SPEAKING to you?
If the Holy Spirit lives in every believer (1 Cor. 6:19), then God is continually in the process of growing and teaching them. This means that in every day and in every season, God is teaching us and speaking to us. The question is: Are we listening? What would you say God is speaking to you and teaching you right now? How do you need to respond? And remember, God’s voice is heard through God’s Word, so we can’t expect to be hearing God clearly without also being consistently in Scripture.
2. How are your spiritual HABITS this week?
Just like working out is necessary for growing strong physically, spiritual growth requires consistent training (1 Tim. 4:7-8). The fundamental habits for spiritual training are Bible reading, prayer and gathering in Christian community. If we are going to be spiritually healthy, we need to be consistently hearing from God in His Word, speaking back to Him in prayer, and gathering with His people, the Church. So how are you doing in practicing these habits?
3. How can I help you in ACCOUNTABILITY this week?
Every Christian is in a daily fight with sin and needs other people to hold them accountable to live a holy life (1 John 1:6-10). While for some, accountability has developed a negative connotation of shame, having someone who knows you well who can consistently ask you questions about your fight with sin (and you do the same for them) can be incredibly freeing. Sin thrives in darkness, but if we will bring it into the light we can find healing and freedom. So, who do you have in your life that you can confess your sins to and be encouraged in repentance?
4. How have your PRIORITIES this week reflected the Gospel?
The truth of the Gospel should change what is ultimate in our life (Col. 1:15-17). But if we are honest, our faith is often just one of many priorities instead of being the guiding principle that determines the order of everything else in our life. We need to consistently examine the way we are spending our time, money, energy and attention to make sure we are setting our minds more on things above than earthly things (Col. 3:2). How do your calendar, screen time and bank account reflect the priority that Christ should have in your life?
5. How are things going in your personal EVANGELISM?
Every follower of Jesus is called to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20). But to make disciples, we have to be building relationships with non-Christians if we are going to be able to share the Gospel with them and invite them to surrender their life to Jesus. If we don’t plan time to have Gospel conversations, we will have very few of them. Evangelism must be a discipline that we work at on a consistent basis. So, who are you seeking to share the Gospel with?
I hope this framework of SHAPE can help you and your students as you seek to evaluate and grow in your spiritual health. We’ve found it to be a helpful discipleship and accountability tool in our ministry. Whatever method you use, as we enter the midpoint of the semester, take some time to reflect on what God has been teaching you and what He may be calling you into through the rest of 2022.
State Missionary Kyle Bryant serves as a campus minister at the University of Alabama. He may be contacted at 205-345-3983, firstname.lastname@example.org.