Monday 9 March 2020

Church indeed critical in faith development

Some two thousand years ago, Jesus approached twelve seemingly unsuspecting Galileans and bid them:
 “Come, follow me.”
For the next three years, they walked alongside him as he discipled them. Toward the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and do the same — to take the Gospel message to the world and make disciples in all the nations.

The Great Commission is an audacious undertaking, all the more so given the fast and sweeping changes taking place in the broader culture. People in this day and age have become the new slaves? The slaves of the international companies. But they also have become slaves of their own materialism and want for more.
Their aspirations to come somewhere in life, to reach the top or to get this or that, makes that they are often under a lot of stress. Each person has his or her own stresses: Mountains of laundry wait, errands beckon, and another pressing meeting extends the workday. Prayer life, if it still exist by certain people, reduces to the minimal communication of mealtime grace and thank-you-Lord-for-this-day bedtime amens.

By the majority of Christians there are no moments any more of contemplation, or of being together in the household taking time, to read the Bible and to say prayers.  No listening ear for God’s voice. Little thought of discerning His plans for the day.

Those who still find time to go to church love to find the pastor or priest doing all the talking and doing all the work. They settle into a church home, then rely on pastors and small group leaders to guide them into maturity. They might know that Church is indeed critical in their faith development.

But something is not working if most of the Christians report little spiritual growth over the course of a year.

The “spiritual journey” language is most preferred among non-practicing Christians. We can wonder how they build up such a spiritual journey. While spiritual growth is very important to tens of millions, the language and terminology surrounding discipleship seems to be undergoing a change, with other phrases coming to be used more frequently than the term “discipleship” itself.

Today the word "discipleship" also seems to have a negative co-notation, giving the impression that one is weak when one wants to become a disciple. Not many do want to be a disciple and having to let others know that one still has to learn.

Engagement with the practices associated with discipleship leave much to be desired.  When in  certain regions there still could be 20 percent of Christian adults involved in some sort of discipleship activity, it would not be bad to come to see that more than 6% would come to be active in church planning, attending Sunday school or fellowship group, meeting with a spiritual mentor, studying the Bible with a group, or reading and discussing a Christian book with a group.

For sure Church needs a new fertilizer and new seed. It needs also people who can ignite the fire in  others. Church leaders must be diligent in finding tools that help people examine the reality of their spiritual growth, not merely how they perceive it.

It is high time that churches start to rethink what is working in connecting with today’s younger Christians and non-believers, particularly when it comes to relational and mentoring forms of spiritual development.

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