There are those who have come to faith in dramatic, Hollywood quality ways. The raging alcoholic who finds Christ just after crashing his car in a ditch. The CEO whose life was spiraling out of control, who happened to flip on a televangelist and found Christ in a hotel room. The cultist who searched long and hard for the truth and, while reading the gospel of John, finally discovered that Jesus was and is God.
Then there is my rather boring conversion. At the age of four in the back of my parent’s red Chevy Malibu I crossed the line from death to life. And then I ate the rest of my hot dog.
I am what you might call a 2nd Generation Christian. I grew up in the church and was raised by Christian parents. I’m deeply grateful for my heritage, something I hope to pass on to my own four children. But there is a unique struggle for those who have always known Jesus–it’s the struggle against a stale, routine, moribund religion.
The easiest way to deal with dry faith is to blame our parents or the Church. And many books and articles and seminars have exhausted this angst. But I believe the root and the cure begins in my own heart, which is often “prone to wander.”
Longtime Christians are apt to numbly march through the motions of Christianty—church, bible study, small group, giving—without experiencing the vibrancy of a fruitful connection to Jesus.
So how do we jumpstart a moribund faith? Here are five things that have nourished my soul in seasons of dryness:
1. Adjust Your Spiritual Environment
As a pastor, I’m hesitant to encourage people to change churches. Consumerist church hopping is an epidemic among God’s people. However, there are seasons when it is good to join yourself to a new local body of believers. I think this is especially important for those who are still attending the church where you grew up, the place where everyone knows you and assumes you’re “ok.”
Perhaps you need to find another church where you are new, where you are forced to develop new friendships and be challenged in a whole new way. And . . . you may try a church that draws you out of your comfort zone. For instance, you might join the launch team for a church plant or a smaller church that needs revitalization. A smaller faith community just might press you to use your gifts; to be more spiritually exposed, and to avoid the kind of hiding that can happen in a big church.
2. Visit a Different Country
I can’t tell you how visiting places like the Middle East and India altered my worldview. In the Middle East I gained a newfound respect for the diverse cultures represented there, for the harsh conditions that frame much of the Bible’s context. In India, I saw believers living out their faith in very difficult environments. I witnessed poverty and devastation up close. Ostensibly, I went to serve those in need in India, but they actually served me and left an indelible mark upon my soul.
Now a word of caution: You shouldn’t sign up for a mission trip or something similar simply to “see the world.” That’s self-serving. You should sign up to serve others. But . . . if your faith is stuck in neutral, service in another, radically different country, is the best cure. You are needed and your faith needs the jolt. Do it.
3. Add a New Service Opportunity
Elbow grease has a way of reviving stale faith. Do you find yourself doing the same things, week after week, day after day? Perhaps you need a new opportunity to apply your gifts toward others in need. Maybe it’s time to volunteer for a new ministry at your church, one that will challenge your skills and talents and afford you the opportunity to meet new and different believers. Or you might look for a social service organization in your community that needs help, such as soup kitchen or a pregnancy crisis center.
Serving others allows us to take all that knowledge we have learned in so many years of church and exercise it practically.
Nothing has nourished my soul more than the reading of good books. This is an essential part of spiritual growth. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul at the end of his life. He begged Timothy to “bring him his books” (2 Timothy 4:13). Read books outside of your theological tribe, outside of your denominational bent. Read books that challenge your thinking on long-held issues. Read a variety of genres, from fiction to nonfiction, biographies to theological works.
God has given you and me a mind to be stretched and grown. We actually love God by thinking deeply, by nurturing our minds (Luke 10:27). I’m amazed at how good books have fed my soul during times of crisis, of trial, of spiritual dryness. Ask your friends or your pastor for a good recommendation. Check out some of the books regularly reviewed on this website.
You’ll be surprised at how reading will grow and stretch your faith.
5. Shake Up Your Spiritual Disciplines
You might try a new routine in your spiritual diet. For instance, if you don’t regularly listen to preaching podcasts, you might begin by subscribing to some preachers you haven’t heard before. Good and diverse preaching has always fed my soul.
You might also try new prayer techniques and alter your time and place where you pray. And you should pray more. Pray for God’s Spirit to bring revival in your own heart, for the Holy Spirit to fill you with His power and refocus you on God’s mission.
It’s also helpful to alter your Bible-reading routine. I have found that changing translations is enormously helpful. This year I’m reading through the Bible in a systematic way, but I’m doing much of it by listening to the audio version and I’m finding it’s a new and rich experience.