There is one spiritual discipline that increases engagement in every other spiritual discipline. In the research behind Transformational Discipleship, we discovered that when someone is engaged in studying the Bible, participation in every other spiritual discipline is positively impacted.
While the other spiritual disciplines are important, engagement in one of these (from a research vantage point) does not necessarily increase engagement in the others. But reading the Bible is different. People who read, hear, and study the Scripture simultaneously increase their participation in every other discipline. Their generosity increases. Their serving increases. Their boldness in sharing the gospel increases. Their confession and repentance increases.
The thing that impacts every other aspect in the life of a believer is quite simply regular and ongoing engagement with the Word of God. He sanctifies His people through His truth, and His Word is truth (John 17:17). Thus, a church that is serious about making disciples is serious about the Word of Christ dwelling in the people (Colossians 3:16). The Word must be central in these three places:
In worship gatherings
If the Word is not central in worship gatherings, the worship gatherings are a waste of time. Knowing a time would come when people would long to gather without hearing the Word declared, the apostle Paul told Timothy:
I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and because of His appearing and His kingdom: Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. (2 Timothy 4:1-3)
The itch to hear something new causes many to turn from the soul-sanctifying, timeless truth of God’s Word. Our people don’t need something new; they need consistent feeding on the old, old Story.
In community (groups, classes, etc.)
If the Word is not central in your groups, then the foundation of your community is shallow and shaky. When the apostle Paul challenged believers to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly,” he was writing to a community of Christians. The Word was to dwell richly among them together—to be central in their community. If we only study the Bible alone, we are likely to find, even unintentionally, verses to support our own agendas and justify our own desires. Community helps us apply the Word rightly.
In personal lives
When people attend a church where the Word is preached in worship gatherings and discussed and applied in groups, a hunger is developed for personal study. We help people develop a hunger for the Word by preaching it faithfully and making it the center of our community. Pastors are wise to challenge believers to personally engage the text in their daily lives. Brad Waggoner, in his research-based book The Shape of Faith to Come, demonstrates that regular Bible reading highly correlates to spiritual growth. Believers who read the Word regularly become more like Christ.