WHY THE BOOK? — “SPIRITUAL LIFE STUDIES MANUAL” by Harold E. Burchett
Believing there is order and pattern to spiritual growth, I set out many years ago to discover what it might be. In time, I could identify what I believe to be the ideal steps by which the Spirit works in lives. With the discovery came a growing concern for the many stunted, frustrated people in average churches. Jesus’ words, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now,” (John 16:12) seemed needlessly fitting for our day.
These guided sessions then are aimed at getting individuals, one at a time, to the place spiritually where they can “bear” and receive God’s best. Still further, each participant is helped to be a more effective helper of others.
I shall be sharing what I have seen prove effective for more than fifteen years. The approach and material in make-do form is now in use here and there on campus, military base, prison, mission field and most especially the local church. For the most part it has spread about with very little being set down in writing.
CONTENT OF THE BOOK — Two Major Features
- SLS Technique: One to one — always over open Bibles
*How to help in three dimensions: Comprehension, Appropriation, Expression
This requires a blending of doctrinal instruction with practical assistance and personal soul-shepherding — drawing your partner along into each new area of development.
*How to use questions skillfully. Important aspect, enabling one to teach where the partner really is and effectively stimulate interest in learning.
*Leader simply finds out what his partner understands and how he is functioning, so week by week assistance can be provided in implementing the lessons.
*Once the approach is mastered, the leader will not be tied down to exact written material.
*Special help given in expressing profound things more simply.
*Punctuate the sessions with times of prayer and promise-claiming, as needed.
- SLS Content: Thirteen weekly sessions of one-hour length
A composite of Doctrine and Duty woven together. The movement is from truth to response. A trail of select texts, generally from the single book of John, become momentary campfires of truth around which the couple sits to discuss the teaching and determine appropriate life-response. Then move on to the next site. As truths are repeated and dealt with more deeply in succeeding studies, definite evidences of growth are sought in the attitudes and actions. The results must show in life’s various arenas.
AIM OF THE WORK
Not simply dead-end discipling. Its unique thrust is to produce edifiers of two sorts:
l) Those who will become general boosters in Christ’s church, spontaneously giving out that which is good and helpful in daily relationships.
2) Those who can in turn share these training sessions with others. To find and prepare a select number who will take up this as a life ministry.
STYLE OF THE MANUAL
It will be addressed in a very personal manner to the reader — as if the author and reader are in private, having an actual session. In preface, it will be made clear that each one would profit most by having the meetings personally with one already trained. Where this is not possible, the reader is directed through the studies in the very personal written style.
At the same time, the book is intended to serve as an effective refresher course for those who have had the previous individual help. They will then view the writing as if they are looking over my shoulder as I help a friend.
FLAVOR OF THE WORK
Sample of Doctrinal Discussion (Answers to be on the spot from the Scripture text.)
“Behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
Why is Jesus here called the Lamb of God?
As God’s lamb, what does He accomplish? Exactly how does His dying rid me of my sin?
Has He taken away your sin? All of it? You mean, you don’t have any sin?
You see now in one sense sin is completely removed, and in another sense the relief is progressive. (Here is opportunity to distinguish between the legal and experiential aspect of sin. This light is thrown on Christ’s salvation from sin by applying distinctly: 1) Christ for me — in my place, in my stead — and, 2) Christ in me, through the Spirit.)
Sample of Discussion on a Duty
*Lead into it: Read John 5:39.
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.”
What is the grand focal point of all Scripture, according to text? (Insights re: Inspiration given briefly.)
*Getting to the point:
Our verse says Scripture is God’s own testimony to us regarding His Son. Surely we must not shut God off here!
Let me ask you then where are you now reading daily in His Word? (Sit quietly through the awkward moment that is likely to follow. Then patiently help them establish daily reading plan and track along with them until they are feeding properly.)
Over the years, the result of SLS in many individual cases has been truly remarkable and, in most cases, excellent. The accumulative effect in churches where employed broadly has been very heartening indeed and characterized by depth and permanence.
Stories Behind the Manual
“What has happened to my husband?”
The excited wife continued, “I can’t believe it. He is up early in the morning reading the Bible — and he’s so different!” This was an early result of my first efforts at leading others through the Spiritual Life Studies, now contained in this manual in a complete, written form. The man referred to had “withstood” twenty-five years of public ministry and urging to read the Bible, but he never had. Now, after a meeting or two, he had a healthy spiritual appetite and was being carefully led into the practice of daily Scripture reading.
Shortly afterward, another woman confided to me — in her husband’s presence –“I scarcely recognize my own husband anymore; he is so gentle and easy to be with.” I remember my eighth session with that man in which I discovered that he really did not, deep down, think of the Holy Spirit as a truly personal One. How, then, could the fruit in the man’s character be other than stunted? Now his was a freed, wholesome character. He became loving to his wife and useful to God.
At last I had found a way, through these individual, weekly fellowship-training sessions to accomplish what I had longed for years to do. I was seeing the impenetrable dullness and indifference give way in many lives. Doctrinal enlightenment replaced ignorance. Numbers who had been deeply defeated and discouraged in fetters of immorality, alcohol, and other habitual evils were being released by God through this approach, and the changes were lasting as each breakthrough was followed by warm personal fellowship and establishment in firm truth.
In a short time reports were coming of “grand-child” and even “great-grand-child” results; that is, those with whom I had studied were now seeing the ones they had led, in turn, sharing effectively with others. Quite naturally, other members in the various families involved were being stirred and blessed, too. The quickening spread throughout the church I pastored. Without any announced “program” at all, I simply moved quietly in my work from one to another. As soon as my wife had completed the studies herself, she also entered the discipling work, leading numbers of women one at a time.
In a surprisingly short time we had some thirty or forty men and women who had cleansed and rededicated their lives privately and were now equipped with a plan in hand to assist others. These exposed to SLS became a very vital part of both the private and public ministries of the church. All of this had a marked effect on the total life of the church. New programs and spiritual undertakings would now succeed. All the work went more easily. A growing number of committed believers were available to carry the load. Especially, the pastoral functions were simplified as mature workers spontaneously shared the burdens of others. Help was readily available within the body. In the years that have followed, we have reaped all down the line a continuing harvest from this effort.
Needless to say, our weekly prayer service showed new life in short order. The attendance doubled, tripled, and continued to overflow each meeting hall until we were forced to use the main auditorium. The important thing to note, however, is that there was no obvious explanation for this increased interest in serious, spiritual matters. The excitement was not being stirred in a visible, human manner. It was coming through the prayerful application of God’s truths to individual lives.
The Fire Spreads
What began as a small fire within a single church inevitably spread to other churches. Faithful men assisted in training pastors and Christian workers who wished to begin SLS ministries in their areas.
“I sincerely believe my life and ministry has been changed,” one prison worker reports in a recent letter. This friend goes on to add, “I know that this will work with all, well-educated and not so well-educated! I’ve used it on both. Great changes have taken place in several lives.”
A pastor, who in turn received the studies from the leader mentioned above, now comments how he would like to see all his church involved, especially the elders. Another pastor observes how the course “stretches widely, yet is unified.”
A report I have before me says, “I watched it (SLS) greatly change and encourage two different laymen that I have discipled — an engineer and a computer technician. One man is now going through the studies with his son who is a senior at college. Two of my assistants in the ministry are actively involved in leading others in studies at this time. I am very encouraged by their progress.” This same man describes his experience in working through the plan with his wife and then seeing her begin the process of d1scipling another young woman. The youthful Lady is described as very shy and introverted. However, he says, “At a recent meeting I saw this shy woman open up and really be used by the Lord. This program needs to be available to the body of Christ. I believe that the Holy Spirit has given a tool that He is going to use greatly. It can really bring revival. Get it out quickly!”
Meanwhile, news of SLS in use abroad continues to come in. In Zaire, one lady missionary found the way to reach even men with the SLS approach. By training wives of local pastors, she extended her impact on the life of the churches to men. In addition, she has seen wide-spread results from these very personal Bible studies with young people.
Another missionary in a different African nation describes how his use of this approach worked effectively with both nationals as well as foreign officials in the embassy of the city. Some had already been baptized and moved on to serve God in other places. He is very excited about the potential of this tool.
A Blessed Problem
My wife and I shared SLS sessions with a navy chaplain and his wife. They came into new spiritual liberty. As a result of this man’s ministry many, many others have been edified and sharpened into a new usefulness for God. Through them SLS training is being propagated in local churches, on military bases, and presently is touching a number of additional mission fields.
Having retired from the service, the former chaplain has established the whole SLS approach as discipline on a Bible school campus (Columbia Bible College, S. C.). The students are now moving out into mission fields in various parts of the world. Numbers of them are instituting Spiritual Life Study movements in churches here and abroad. And, this is being done with almost n0 printed helps.
My original intention was that these, truths and this training shou1d go from heart to heart, life to life. Being without “canned materials,” as I used to term it, forced us into a discipline of keeping involved personally with all the training and the upgrading of the entire program. No longer is this possible.
Furthermore, after much prayerful thought, I believe the style of this manual will make it easier to spread the ministry effectively without limiting its vitality. Thus, I came to conceive of the manual not as a word by word, restrictive scheme of lessons but as a very personal training in the total Christian life — using a large array of solid truths in a vital, fresh approach.
TO ORDER A COPY OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE STUDIES MANUAL, GO TO bcbministries.com/my-books.