The Spiritual Pathway

Next Step Discipleship, pp. 21–26

by David Daniels on

Books 10 min read
Isaiah 30:21 Acts 17:26–27

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
Isaiah 30:21

I have been privileged to travel the world, training leaders and partnering with ministries in Russia, Estonia, Ukraine, China, Hong Kong, Spain, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, India, Cuba and Mexico.

Each trip, I plan and book my own travel itinerary, working to get the most economical ticket with the shortest route. Each time, I must know two pieces of information: where I am and where I am going. If I don’t know where I am, I won’t know where to start. And, if I don’t know where I’m going, I could end up anywhere! But, if I’m sure of both, the airline is able to coordinate a very specific route for me to get to my destination.

This book is a travel guide to help you discover the spiritual pathway for your life. This pathway assumes that you are at a particular place in your spiritual journey right now and it assumes that God has an intended route for you to follow with an intended destination for you to reach. The question is, what route will take you from where you are along the path to missional living?

The Bible frequently uses the idea of a “path” or a “way” to refer to the spiritual journey. We are sometimes commanded to “walk” in a particular way or to stay on the narrow road. This is a small sampling of these themes in the Bible:

Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. (Psalm 119:35)

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4-5)

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance…You have made known to me the path of life… (Psalm 16:5-6, 11)

There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

He who strays from the path of understanding comes to rest in the company of the dead. (Proverbs 21:16)

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

“Come follow Me,” Jesus said… (Matthew 4:19)

“I am the way, the truth and the life…” (John 14:6)

A “pathway” that we are to follow or “walk” appears as a consistent theme in Scripture. So, the role of the pastor and the goal of the church is to move people along the “spiritual pathway” to deeper life with God.

The problem is that most people have no direction and most churches have no destination. If you ask a Christian, “Where are you right now in your spiritual journey?” most will have no idea how to evaluate their present condition. Or, if you asked, “Where are you going in your spiritual journey?” most Christians would answer, “I’m going to heaven,” as if eternity is the only goal of the spiritual life. Many churches contribute to this lack of direction by not giving people a definitive pathway for living their spiritual life. The dangerous and deceptive result is that the church’s measure of discipleship is: busyness. The more activities church members participate in, the more mature they must be.

This was never God’s plan.

Busy people are not necessarily better people. A schedule filled with activity doesn’t automatically produce disciples filled with the Holy Spirit. And, a church with programs may never see Christians make progress along the pathway toward spiritual maturity.

What this book proposes is a specific, but simple, spiritual pathway for any church. At Central Bible Church, we have experienced tremendous success in seeing our people move along the pathway toward missional living. This pathway is described by three steps: Belong, Become and Beyond.

The first step along the spiritual pathway is to BELONG—the step of connection. It’s a place of interpersonal relationships. Every Christian begins their journey with God by first belonging to Jesus Christ. Next, they connect to a biblical community of people where they can do life together. Finally, every Christian needs to belong to a church, a corporate Body where they partner with a larger mission. To summarize, to BELONG is to connect with…

  • Jesus Christ, through faith in Him
  • Biblical community, for life together
  • A local church, to partner with the mission

The second step along the spiritual pathway is to BECOME—the step of transformation by the Holy Spirit. It’s not a physical place, but the state of ongoing spiritual maturity. As we will learn later, many Christians do not experience much of the life change that God intends for them. In this step, the Christian longs for greater sanctification and trusts God for greater growth as they BECOME the person God intends for them to be.

The third step along the spiritual pathway is to go BEYOND—the step of mission. It’s a place of purpose and action. In this step, the Christian is compelled by the mission of God to go beyond their current job, routine, community, etc., to wherever God calls them. It is important for every Christian to serve beyond themselves in their local church, using their spiritual gifts to build the Body. The Christian goes beyond into their local community, believing that God placed them where they live for a strategic purpose (Acts 17:26-27). Finally, the Christian embraces God’s global mission to go beyond into the world. To summarize, going BEYOND means giving my life…

  • In my church
  • In my community
  • In my world

There are several reasons why this model is so effective:

The pathway is simple. It is easy for pastors to communicate and easy for people to understand. Moreover, it is a simple tool by which the church may plan and evaluate its ministries and people may evaluate their own lives.

The pathway is intentional. The spiritual pathway has a particular goal: not to grow a church, but to produce missional disciples. This pathway will enable you to take personal responsibility for cultivating spiritual growth in your life. Each step offers the opportunity for you to be deliberate in your walk with Jesus.

The pathway is progressive. It keeps people moving forward toward increasing spiritual maturity and mission. Frequently, Christians feel like they are “running in circles,” not making any progress. This pathway looks forward to a “next step” of growth each time. Once a person connects in relationships and BELONGS to Jesus and community, their next expected step is to pursue life change. If a person is BECOMING more like Jesus, they are being changed to change their world (BEYOND).

It important at this point to note that growing disciples don’t “graduate” from one step to another. As people BELONG to Jesus and community, they begin the journey to BECOME more like Jesus. But, they don’t cease connecting to Jesus or their community. In fact, their increasing life change (BECOME) will likely deepen their connection with Jesus and other believers. In the same way, as a Christian begins to go BEYOND on mission, they don’t leave life change behind. In reality, each missional venture will most assuredly produce even greater life change. The pathway is cyclical, enabling the maturing disciple to grow deeper and deeper in connection, transformation and mission over a lifetime.

The pathway is reproductive. It doesn’t have a final end. The end of mission (BEYOND) is that new converts are made who, in turn, BELONG to Jesus, community and the church. Then, as they BECOME more like Jesus and go BEYOND into their community and world, they make more converts who likewise repeat the process. This is a model of spiritual multiplication.

The pathway is personal. This isn’t a plan just for the local church. It’s a developmental plan for individuals. When people understand each step, they are able to personally assess where they are and where they should go “next.”

The rest of this book will take each of the steps along the spiritual pathway and explain them for the follower of Jesus wishing to grow toward greater missional discipleship. Occasionally, it will be helpful for you to ask “Where am I?” as you think about each step along the pathway. Hopefully, as you apply these biblical principles, you will enjoy greater spiritual fruit and will have greater spiritual impact in your community and the world beyond.

In each of the next chapters, the following diagram will remind you where you are on the spiritual pathway:

Path 0.png


  1. How would you respond if someone asked you, “Where are you?” or “Where are you going?”

  2. What does the word “Belong” bring to mind for you? Why do you think this word is important for the disciple of Jesus?

  3. What does the word “Become” bring to mind for you? Why do you think this word is important for the disciple of Jesus?

  4. What does the word “Beyond” bring to mind for you? Why do you think this word is important for the disciple of Jesus?

  5. What is the most important thing you learned from this chapter?

About the Author

Dr. David Daniels (D. Min. Dallas Theological Seminary, M. Div. Denver Seminary) is Lead Pastor of Central Bible Church and author of Next Step Church, Next Step Discipleship, Next Step JournalWonder, and An Unexpected King.