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Trail Notes

They Are Released Almost Everyday

by Jim Johnson

They are released almost every day. They cost thousands, if not millions of dollars. Sometimes they are incredibly significant, sometimes you ask, “What’s the point?” What am I talking about?—“Scientific studies.” Just this week two have been in the news—the link between eating red meat and colon cancer, and, a favorite of many, sleeping more may aid in losing weight! Now that’s my kind of weight loss plan! While the study that tracks the cross-pollenization of the tsi tsi fly in tropical climates may not be earth-shattering, some studies do break new ground and lead to quantum leaps in understanding the human condition.

Interestingly, in recent years this scientific method has been applied to matters of faith. One study done in southern California traced the relationship between people and their new church over a series of years. The purpose was to discover what factors were most important in helping people stay vitally connected to a church and on a course of spiritual growth. I thought you would be interested in what they found. Here are the three most important factors:

1) Meaningful friendships . . . Paul, Rod, and I would like to think that it is our engaging sermons and “smokin” worship band that keep people coming back. Not the case. Long term, the study found, the most significant factor was how many friendships people found in a particular church. They even narrowed it down to a number. If a person doesn’t make seven meaningful friendships in the first year of attendance, there is a strong likelihood they will drop out of active involvement within 12 to 18 months.

Why is that? . . . Simple, the need to be loved, to have a sense of belonging, and to be known is stronger than the need to hear a great message and moving music. That’s why the first church, found in Acts 2:42-47, spent so much time together at the temple and in their homes worshiping, praying, eating, and celebrating. God wired us to experience Him and grow in Him most fully in relationship with others. OK, here’s the shameless plug. Life Groups at PRESTON TRAIL are designed to help you develop these key relationships. Our Weekend Services will introduce you to God and His truth and inspire you to connect with Him, but it is being part of a group of friends on the same journey that will propel you to enduring spiritual growth. That’s why we believe being a part of a Life Group is so essential.

2) Finding a niche to serve . . . being a spectator is fine, but deep down, most of us desire to be a player. Finding a place to plug in and serve is like getting into the game. In the end it gives us a satisfying sense of being on a team which is accomplishing something significant for God! The happiest people I know at PRESTON TRAIL are the ones who have caught this vision of finding their place on our “team” and are using their gifts to serve Christ and His mission. If you haven’t found your niche yet, be sure and take a look at the list of Serving Teams listed in the program his Sunday. There is a place waiting just for you!

3) Agreement with the church’s mission, vision, and leadership . . . goes a long way in helping people stay connected and personally involved in the life of a church. Every church is not for everybody. Church’s have different missions, visions, even personalities. The key is to find the one that fits the way that God has wired you. When you do, you’ll be there for a long time! That’s why at PRESTON TRAIL we encourage everyone to come to Discover Preston Trail (coming up Jan. 30th, AMC Theater, 5:00-7:00). At DPT you will hear about our church’s mission, vision, and strategy and discover if our church is for you. If not, we can even help you find the one you’re looking for! Why? We understand that people, churches, and God’s mission prosper where everyone is on the same page, working together for the same cause.

There you have it—the three most important factors for being vitally connected to a church and spiritual growth. So . . . I’ve just got to ask. How are you feeling about Preston Trail? If you are “all in” it’s probably because you have connected at all three of these levels. If you’re feeling a little unsure or disconnected, let me challenge you to take the plunge—find a Life Group, join a Serving Team, come to Discover Preston Trail. It just might change your life!

Go Team!

Jim