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Can You Measure Spiritual Growth?

Recently Arnie Cole posted a great article over at, and we wanted to share it here.  Measuring spiritual growth can be a tricky thing, and Arnie has some great thoughts and ideas about what it looks like in today’s world.


The latest wearable gadgets leave traditional pedometers in the dust. They track way more than the steps you take including your heart rate, hydration level, sleep patterns, and blood oxygen levels.

This use of technology to modify our habits intrigues me as a behaviorist. After all, I firmly believe that measurement and feedback play key roles in any endeavor.

That may sound funny coming from a guy who devotes his life to helping men engage the Bible and grow as Christ followers. What role could measurement possibly have in ministry?

Recently I delivered a short talk on just this topic at a Yale conference titled What works? Evidence on the Role of Faith in Poverty Reduction. Many ministry professionals attended along with representatives from the World Bank, US AID, the United Nations, and academicians, particularly from the field of economics. A significant number openly expressed hostile views towards anything to do with faith or Christianity. Among the academicians especially this hostility stemmed from what they saw as the impossibility of measuring faith or spiritual growth. They asked: how can you say faith helps reduce poverty when you can’t measure any changes in faith? Many claims have been made about raised hands and transformed lives, yet statistically the lives of self-identified Christians often look remarkably the same as the lives of non-Christians.

I don’t see this as an insurmountable hurdle if you break life transformation down into the specific behaviors that you’d expect to see. If life transformation really means moving closer to Jesus each day, becoming more like him and less like who you were before you met him, then you look for certain behaviors to increase and others to decrease.

Now I’m not saying that all spiritual growth can be boiled down to one number (e.g., Did I sin less today than I did yesterday?). What I am saying is that God does reveal in scripture what spiritual growth should look like. Consider this passage from 2 Peter 1:3-11 (NLT):

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This passage along with other such as Galatians 5:22-26 reveal the signposts or markers for spiritual growth. We may not have a wearable gadget (yet?) that measures the Fruit of the Spirit, but every man can examine his own life for these signs:

  1. Am I displaying more and more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my relationships with others?
  2. Am I giving in to temptations (i.e. those things that pull me away from Jesus) less and less each day?
  3. Am I spending time with God most days of the week, hearing from him through his Word? Do I respond to what he is saying to me in my life?

I challenge you today, friend, to consider these questions deeply. As you look over the past week, month or year, can you see where you moved closer to Jesus…and maybe where you’ve gone in the opposite direction? What can you do today to move closer to him tomorrow?

If you want a tool that will help you start making more progress in your spiritual journey, give our app a try. It’ll give you that little nudge you need to engage the Bible right where you are. Visit to download it today.

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Help to Engage the Bible Daily

What is goTandem?


Everyday life is busy and as a result, our spiritual lives are often neglected. But that doesn’t have to be the case. With goTandem, you receive customized biblical content based on your unique spiritual needs. Every single piece of content is designed specifically to move you closer to Jesus on a daily basis. And best of all it’s delivered right to your phone. The path to Bible engagement has never been easier.

That’s because Bible Engagement occurs when we receive what the Bible says, reflect on its meaning and respond accordingly with our actions. After more than 7 years of research, we’ve learned that more than anything, being engaged in God’s Word four or more times a week has the biggest impact on our lives – through overcoming temptation, building healthier relationships, and having hope in uncertainty. More is better. Less is significantly worse.

That might seem like a lot, but goTandem makes it manageable. Providing a personalized experience with the Bible, goTandem delivers meaningful content directly to you, right when you want it. Each message is designed to help strengthen and encourage you by taking an honest look at what the Bible says and how applying it moves you closer to Christ.

How it Works.

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God’s Word Is the Best Medicine

Meet John of Illinois

“Scripture penetrates the heart, helps us get to the root of our troubles, and leads us into transformation.”

When it comes to lasting behavior change, an Illinois therapist says that God’s Word is “amazing medicine.” It goes deep into our “bloodstream,” healing us on three critical levels: our minds, our bodies, and our spirits.

“Life gets in the way of spiritual growth,” John says. “So many distractions come between God and us: being busy, daily responsibilities, work, and especially the countless struggles we encounter–addictions, fear, worry, sinful habits. But I’ve found that the lasting answer for genuine change is the Bible.”

So for the past year, this licensed clinical professional counselor (LCPC) has incorporated goTandem into his treatment plans. And success rates, he reports, have been “astounding”–even among those whose emotional scars feel beyond repair. “Lasting behavior change often entails more than pharmaceutical medications and mental health therapies,” John explains. “I’ve observed that when God’s Word penetrates the hardened hearts of my clientele … their lives begin to change dramatically.”

The Bible makes it clear what medical professionals like John are now echoing: Our mind, body, and spirit are interconnected. Obviously, every human being inhabits physical bodies. And the health of our bodies is connected to our emotional selves, as well as our “soulful” selves.” So as a therapist, I know I need to treat a client’s entire body,” John says. “All that anxiety and negative self-talk that goes on inside a person’s head can affect how he or she feels. This, in turn, can affect their physical wellbeing, not to mention their spiritual life. Yet God’s Word cuts through the layers and helps each one of us get to the root of our troubles.”

Ultimately, this paves the way for the Holy Spirit to go deep into our lives, accomplishing what we all so desperately need: spiritual transformation. But the key, John says, is consistent Bible engagement. “We must engage scripture four or more times a week–receiving it, reflecting on it, and responding to God’s Word. It’s at this point when real change begins to happen.”

John knows this firsthand, because he’s experiencing it in his own life.

Not long after downloading goTandem on his cell phone–and customizing the app so it would address two key struggles in his life, pride and trust–John began to receive multiple scriptures each day; multiple “spiritual interruptions” that helped him get to the root of his struggles.

“I let the words get deep into my heart, pondering them and reflecting on them,” he says. “And the more I engaged with scriptures–responding to what God what telling me–the more my life was being molded into what He wants it to be.”

And that’s when the healing began.

As God’s Word got past his mind and touched his heart, it began to revive his soul–which, in his own words, makes the Bible “the best medicine of all!”

What’s your story?

We’d love to hear how God is working in your life through Back to the Bible or goTandem. Share your story and encourage others in their own journey.

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John’s story originally appeared at