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How Environment Affects Our Spiritual Growth

Executive presbyters Bradley Trask and Rob Ketterling share their insights on the importance of a healthy environment for the cultivation of spiritual growth.

“Whether good or bad, we learn what to do and what not to do in our environment. That absolutely impacts spiritual growth.” Rob Ketterling, executive presbyter and lead pastor of River Valley Church, says.

Spiritual growth should be a constant desire in the life of believers, but it requires dedication and intentionality over the course of a lifetime. Discovering ways to nurture spiritual growth is a topic that has been widely researched and reported on in terms of healthy habits and discipline development. However, the environment in which believers live plays an equally important role.

Ketterling refers to Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds as an example of environment impacting growth.

“The exact same seeds were sown but yielded different results. Nothing was different except for the soil,” he says.

The environment in which a person lives and grows consists of their spiritual climate, current culture, and the atmosphere and health of their local church. These factors, according to Bradley Trask, executive presbyter and lead pastor of Brighton Assembly of God, play a large role in spiritual growth.


“People need to recognize what their background is,” Trask says. “They need to look at what the Lord has brought them out of and the generational bents that each of us have as part of our history.”

He adds that these generational lineages, as well as our families and our personalities, create conditions to which certain aspects of our faith journey can become vulnerable.

“This is where we have to become intentional in creating an atmosphere of praise and worship,” Trask says, referencing Psalm 22:3 which says that God inhabits the praise of His people. When he comes and takes up residence within us, the Spirit of God can break strongholds and set us free from enslaving climates.

“King Jehoshaphat’s battle in 2 Chronicles is a great example of this,” remarks Trask. “He sent ahead worshippers before the battle and saw a great victory.”

To keep a healthy spiritual climate, Trask suggests following the A.C.T.S. model.

“In our personal, quiet time, an easy pattern to follow is adoration, confession, thanks, and supplication,” he says. “Adoration is praising God for who He is, confession is owning up to our wrong choices and bad attitudes, thanks is both thanking God for what He has already given us and what He has promised to us, and supplication is a time to ask God to supply for our personal needs and the needs of our family and our church.”


This year, it is imperative that believers are experiencing spiritual growth. With all that is going on domestically and internationally, Ketterling says that the Church has to be strong and thriving.

“The world’s answers aren’t coming through politics, they’re coming through us as the body of Christ,” he says.

However, he believes that having a stronger impact on society is deterred by Christians wearing themselves out trying to be things that only God was meant to be. He explains that with the technology we use to try to be everywhere at once, we are making feeble attempts at being omnipresent, a quality that only applies to God.

Additionally, with the constant flood of information bombarding us on a continual basis, people are often victim to information overload that is deteriorating our spirits.

“We can’t process all of that,” Ketterling says. “God is good at it, and we fail at it. We weren’t meant to be omniscient. We weren’t made to handle the world’s grief in an up-to-the minute update. It wears on us.”

This wear and tear on our spiritual lives weakens us in a time when we are urgently needed to be salt and light to the world.

As culture becomes increasingly aggressive against the things of God, there must be a strategic counterattack by Christians.

“There has to be elements of daily prayer time and periods of fasting because these are the things that exercise our spiritual muscles, heighten our awareness of the supernatural, and strengthen us as we engage in battle with the enemy,” says Trask.

Biblical disciplines such as prayer, Scripture memorization, and finding a place to serve are additional practices that Ketterling believes will strengthen the life of believers in today’s current culture.


When looking at the early history of the Church in Acts 2, they emphasized the practices of fasting and prayer. This type of environment certainly contributed to the rapid spread of Christianity and the numerous salvations reported throughout the rest of the book.

“We often imitate our leaders,” Ketterling says. “Paul instructed believers to imitate him, and, likewise, we emulate leaders above us. While perfection isn’t the key, being part of a church that is healthy is what’s important.”

Part of a healthy church means that its members have permission and feel comfortable to bring valid concerns to leadership when things don’t feel healthy, he states.

“Some ways to go about that in a constructive way are to be careful not to accuse but, instead, ask questions. Assuming that leadership sees what is going on deters defensiveness. And when you challenge a leader’s authority [with accusations], you get a fight, not a partnership.”

Ketterling also encourages those with concerns to approach leaders with three solutions to the problem. This partnership will help keep the tone of the church one of unity and cooperation.


Taking an honest assessment of our environment is key to evaluating spiritual growth. Trask suggests that the level of peace in our lives can serve as a gauge on our spiritual growth meter.

“The increased stillness of spirit and peace we have amidst our storms is the litmus test to how we are growing spiritually,” Trask says.

He illustrates this point by recalling the story of Jesus and His disciples in a boat during a large storm on the sea of Galilee.

“Jesus had the peace to take a nap on a boat in the middle of a storm because He was in constant communion with the Father,” he says. “Having purposeful moments of solitude in the presence of God, moments where we solely focus on praise, allows us to eliminate the panic and find peace,” he concludes.

For Ketterling, the assessment of our environment comes from tangible things, such as having strategies and plans in place for continued growth, and from intangible things such as the level of peace we feel and the fruits of God’s favor on our lives.

“If you’re in a thriving environment, you’ll know it when you feel it. You’ll notice that you’re talking about vision, opportunities, and the awe of God as opposed to other people and your problems and pain,” he says. “What’s coming out of your mouth is what’s effecting your heart and soul.”

Ashley B. Grant

Ashley B. Grant has a master's degree in Human Services Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University and is a credentialed Christian counselor through the American Association of Christian Counselors. Grant also holds certifications in crisis pregnancy counseling and advanced life coaching. Ashley is a fourth generation Assemblies of God preacher’s kid and has one daughter and three sons.