New LifeWay Study on Selflessness and Spiritual Maturity

Spiritual Gifts and Serving Others Graphs

LifeWay Research has released a new study noted in the article below that links spiritual maturity and serving others. Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research is quoted below stating, “Growth leads to service and serving leads to growth – it’s deeply connected.”

Stetzer’s statement is a great summary sentence correlating Christian service and growth. Of course, there are different types of growth and service. I’m not sure exactly what kind of spiritual growth the study measured that is taking place through serving others. Maybe the areas in which spiritual growth is taking place would be worth considering if LifeWay has not all ready done so.

Personally, I find that serving others enlarges my view of the gospel. I recently went out with my new church family to help a single mother with some home repairs. The lady was not a church member and we had no idea of where she stood spiritually.

While fixing her home we were able to share the gospel with her. She said she was a Christian, but was going through a difficult time. We got to encourage her about her hope and trust in Christ through this difficult time.

Christ’s gospel clearly blessed all of us that morning.

Study: Selflessness leads to spiritual maturity
By Russ Rankin

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Selfless service to God and others both impacts and is impacted by transformational discipleship, according to a study conducted by LifeWay Research.

The survey shows 58 percent of Protestant churchgoers in the United States agree with the statement: “I am intentionally putting my spiritual gift(s) to use serving God and others.” Seventeen percent disagree with the statement.

A greater percentage of respondents indicate they look for opportunities to serve others in the community. Asked to respond to the statement: “I intentionally try to serve people outside my church who have tangible needs,” 60 percent agree – although only 17 percent strongly agree. Fifteen percent disagreed with the statement.

“Serving God and Others” is one of eight attributes of discipleship that consistently show up in the lives of believers who are progressing in spiritual maturity, according to LifeWay Research.

“Service doesn’t just happen in a church,” said Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “It must be modeled and encouraged. As we look at the breakdown of attributes and correlated disciplines, the data shows that praying expectantly, getting involved in the community and discipling others fosters a posture of serving. As such, disciples are serving in, through, and beyond their churches for the cause of Christ.”

Churchgoers indicate much lower agreement related to sacrificial giving. Just 9 percent of churchgoers strongly agree with the statement: “I intentionally give up certain purchases so I can use that money for others.” Thirty percent somewhat agree and 32 percent disagree.

Approximately a quarter of respondents selected “neither agree nor disagree” as their answer for the three statements.

“Service and activism have become popular in our culture today, especially among younger adults,” Stetzer said. “However, most of this benevolent activity is fairly low-level involvement that does not cost the giver much. The midrange responses on the Serving God and Others attribute reveals lots of good intentions and some occasional actions but much lower intentionality, consistency or sacrifice.”

Serving clearly impacts growth, Stetzer summarized. “The study shows that individuals who have positive scores for Serving God and Others have higher scores in the other seven attributes of the Transformational Discipleship study, as well.

“For example, scores for Sharing Christ jump 24 percent when individuals have positive Serving God and Others’ scores and 51 percent for individuals with the highest Serving God and Others scores,” he said.

Likewise, Stetzer pointed out that positive responses in the other seven attributes of discipleship correlate with higher scores in Serving God and Others.

“Growth leads to service and serving leads to growth – it’s deeply connected,” he explained. For example, Stetzer said that positive scores in Bible Engagement result in a 17 percent increase in scores for Serving God and Others compared to those who do not have positive scores for Bible Engagement.

“We saw most say they were serving in some way, but far too many are sitting down on the job – particularly when the Bible says everyone should ‘…use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God’ (1 Peter 4:10; HCSB). There is a huge gap between this passage and most churches’ practice.”

To help pastors, churches and individuals measure spiritual development, LifeWay Research used the study’s data to develop a questionnaire for believers, called the Transformational Discipleship Assessment (TDA). This online evaluation delivers both individual and group reports on spiritual maturity using the eight attributes of biblical discipleship. The TDA also provides helpful and practical suggestions on appropriate next steps for spiritual development.

To learn more about the transformational discipleship research visit The TDA is available at

Methodology: The survey of 2,930 American adults who attend a Protestant church once a month or more was conducted Oct. 14-22, 2011. A demographically balanced online panel was used for the interviewing. Respondents could respond in English, Spanish or French. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed ±1.8 percent. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.

Russ Rankin is a writer for the communications office of LifeWay Christian Resources.

tagged as , , in Christianity,Church Issues,Evangelism,Gospel,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steve Martin November 19, 2012 at 4:14 pm



We just are not built that way. We might have our moments, but the law demands selflessness 100% of the time. “Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

What do we do with that one?

2 Jenny Elaine November 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Steve, can you measure 100% selflessness? One can’t. If I was selfless 100% in the strictist sense then I would either devote myself as a slave, never eating or sleeping or doing anything to help my own existance….or I would lay down and die. Self-less, meaning no self…means non-exisitance. SO, do you think this is what God…or Mark in this article…was talking about? Please go deeper into what God perhaps is meaning by this. (“Study to show yourself approved”)

Definition of Perfect = Especially suitable: having all the necessary or typical characteristics required for a given situation. Or, Bringing something to completion: to make something as good as possible, or bring something to completion – complete, absolute, unqualified, whole, finished, total, entire, intact

If God says something for us to do, then He has a way to do it…wouldn’t you think?? There are different kinds of love…there are also different kinds of perfect. The flawless kind of perfect only Jesus had, when He was in human form. However, and what is quite apparent, is that when perfect is taken in context here, it means to aim at being what God wants you to be…and scripture tells us what that is, both generally and individually (when you spend time with Him and He shares with you what that is). Generally, for every Christian, it is first and foremost, to set our sights on the 1st commandment. This being God’s #1 ethic, as it fulfills* all the requirements of the law* and the prophets. HOW you obey this is between you and God.



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