October 19, 2009

Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations: Intentional Faith Development

Week three of the series based on Schnase's book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations brings us to Intentional Faith Development. As always, feel free to share your thoughts, questions and comments.

Intentional Faith Development

This is my favorite of the five practices because I really like the word "intentional". It conveys the message that we must decide whether or not to make our faith development a priority and be disciplined to follow that priority up with action. "Intentional refers to deliberate effort, purposeful action toward an end, and high prioritization" (Schnase, 68). If we desire to see our faith grow then we must be deliberate in doing things to see that happen. We cannot passively sit in the pew on Sunday mornings and expect our faith to magically develop. Schnase points out that the Christian faith is not static but dynamic (64), it is always moving, either closer to Jesus or away from Him but never stagnant. That's why the cultivation of our faith is so important.

Another crucial aspect in the intentional development of our faith is community. Christianity is not intended to be lived out in solitude, we need to be part of a community of believers that will encourage, challenge, support and hold us accountable. We read things like "as iron sharpens iron" (Prov. 27:17) and accounts of the early church community of how they "devoted themselves to...fellowship" (Acts 2:42-47) and see how important community is for faith development. Being involved in community is a way of "placing ourselves in the hands of God so that God can sculpt our souls and recreate us in the image of Christ" (Schnase, 78).

When I read how Paul is "imploring [us] on Christ's behalf" to "be reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:16-21) I begin to see the importance of faith development. The idea that you and I could help reconcile someone to God is HUGE! I must first be reconciled to God in order to help someone else be reconciled to Him and in order to do that, I have to take the development of my faith seriously.

So, honestly, how important is your faith to you? How much of a priority is your relationship with Jesus? Who are you learning from and who are you teaching? I don't ask these questions to make you feel guilty but to have you honestly think about where your faith is, where you want it to be and how you are helping the community of believers grow in their faith.