I have always been a fan of Steven Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The first time I read it, I was in my twenties and his concepts about focusing on important vs urgent issues in life have stuck with me through the years. Recently, I have been pondering what makes an effective Christian. To do that, I need to define what effective means in this context. For the purposes of this blog post, I am defining an effective Christian as one who is growing in Christ-likeness and who is increasingly eager to share the “good news” of the gospel. I have been very blessed to have people in my life who are effective Christians and who give me a powerful example to follow. They would all say that an important aspect of their effectiveness is a total dependence on Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to live lives that honor and glorify God.
That said, I believe there are also specific habits that these same people developed over the years (through the power of the Holy Spirit) that enabled them to be more and more effective as they got older. Here’s my list for what it is worth:
- A passionate commitment to corporate worship – these folks do not see church attendance as a mere obligation or requirement to be a “good Christian”. Instead they love entering the house of the Lord and being with their fellow believers. They get strength from these times of fellowship, singing, teaching and participation in the sacraments. Many volunteer for various roles in the church and some of these positions are not that glamorous. Often I worship alongside them and even though they might not be the best singers in the world, they are making a joyful noise and I catch their enthusiasm.
- Small group accountability – effective Christians know that they cannot do life on their own. Spending time in small group settings where they can study God’s word, ask hard questions and do life with other likeminded believers is a highlight of their week. This often results in impromptu meals together, camping trips and game nights where people can “let down their hair” and learn to be vulnerable. On other occasions it means crying together over life’s tragedies and standing arm in arm to face an uncertain future. Deep friendships develop in these groups and often some of these people are the first responders when any crisis does occur in the other person’s life.
- Persistent Prayer – prayer is never an afterthought in the lives of these people. These are not the kind of folks that pray for a few seconds before a test and hope for the best. Instead, they develop a daily habit of talking with their heavenly father. On many occasions, I am the recipient of those prayers and fairly regularly I am invited to pray with them. It is one thing to read about intercessory prayer, it is quite another to actually pray with a real intercessor. They do not let God go. Instead they thank Him for His faithfulness and hold Him accountable to the promises in His word. How many miracles happen after these times of prayer? I will never know – I have lost count the older I get.
- Soaking in the Word – reading the Bible is never a chore or an academic exercise. They see God’s word for what it is – His love letter to His people. No matter their level of education or theological training, they spend time soaking in God’s word. This includes regular times of devotional reading, Bible study and listening to other expound on the meaning of various texts. Not content to just hear his word, they live their lives in accordance with its teaching. It is a living and active part of their everyday experience. Memorizing verses is normal and quoting those verses at just the right moment touches the lives of those they interact with wherever they are.
- Reading for renewal – these people take Romans 12:2 very seriously and choose not to be conformed to this world, but instead focus on the renewing of their minds. They clearly understand the idiom “garbage in = garbage out”. They really want to know God’s will for their lives and they pursue wisdom in books that shape their thinking and living. Books are always present on the nightstand, on the coffee table and on the side table next to their chairs. These books are not for decoration on a book shelf, but for deep insight into the challenges they face. Whenever they read a book that was particularly helpful, they talk about and share the book with others. I have been the happy recipient of many book gifts down through the years.
- Witnessing as a Lifestyle – talking about Jesus is not hard or embarrassing. He has changed their lives and they want others to know about it. This is not done in an off-putting or obnoxious way but in a genuine desire to see others come to love Him the way they do. One of the best ways that I observed this in action is to see them give God credit for what He has done in their lives. They are constantly pointing out his blessings, his creation, his incredible sustaining power and others simply want to know more about God as a result. More often than not they are just answering questions and then leading people to make that all important decision to welcome Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
- Courageous Compassion – effective Christians notice people that Jesus noticed – the downtrodden, the lonely, the hurting and the despised. They make time for the mess and enter into tough situations. While maintaining high standards of Christian conduct, they do not intimidate others with judgmental opinions and a “better than thou” attitude. Instead, they see people as Jesus did – sinners in need of savior, lost and dying without him. Most importantly, they see themselves like Paul did as the chief of sinners. This perspective makes them safe for others to approach and often leads to conversations about faith, life and eternity.
So who were these effective Christians? – they are my spouse, parents, grandparents, siblings, teachers, coworkers and pastors. My life has been greatly enriched by their lives and I only hope to emulate a small percentage of what they have poured into me.