Convenient or Deliberate Discipleship?

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Constant demands placed on individuals and families create what seems like little space for developing faith. As schools, community arts, and other social activities continue pushing the limits of endurance, the covenant promise to self and children often weighs heavy on our hearts. We long for expanding a depth of relationship with God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but where do we find the time?

Like you, I praise God for Christian education, for church Sunday school, catechism, youth group, VBS, and adult education. Expanding the depth of relationship with God and being equipped for His service is at the heart of Reformed theology, both faith and practice. Take a moment and think on this question, which I have asked many church pastors and councils, education teams and parents. “How would you describe your discipleship process for helping your children or adults live out the mission of your church (or family)?” 

Often, the response is something of this nature. The parent or the church team leaders tell me about the programs or resources they have in place, but often their answer does not reflect a clear and deliberate faith formation process. Most churches and families have the “take whatever is convenient process” to disciple. They often respond by saying something like, “Well you can’t really have a distinct process because everyone’s journey is different in their walk of faith.” To which I often respond acknowledging that the path of faith for our children and church members is unique. In addition, they will respond, “our lives are so crazy right now we just take something that’s close by at the moment.” 

When invited into the conversation, I seek to help others see that although the paths are different, having a process for discipleship that gives room for “just-in-time” guidance allows for the Holy Spirit to move a person into a relationship with Jesus Christ, grow in the grace of Jesus and his church, and then be equipped to go and serve.

If you think about it, this addresses the primary concerns everyone deals with from the ages of middle school to early in their 20s: Who am I? What group will help me establish where I belong? Finally, what is my purpose in life? Our response needs to be deliberate especially to youth today, because they are sincerely asking the questions about process not mere content. They want to know the significance. 

For local churches: your Faith Formation Ministries Regional Catalyzer can help you and your leadership team formulate a deliberate plan of discipleship for your children, youth, and adult ministries. Some good resources that will help are ones dealing with spiritual disciplines, giving voice to your story within God’s bigger story, being confident of what and why you believe, and being fully engaged in worship, witness, and service.  However, you must seek to add significance by developing a process. 

For families: Laura & Robert Keeley have produced a wonderful new resource - Dear Parent: A Guide for Family Faith Formation. This resource gives simple and powerful tools that challenges all of us to remember our call as parents to shape the raising up of the next generation of believers. What I have really appreciated is that this book also holds a framework process for family discipleship - Belonging, Knowing God’s story, Living in hope, Called and Equipped, and Traveling the journey together!  What a simple and deliberate process for discipleship! I hope that you, parents and grandparents, will get a copy of this and use this simple discipleship process in creative ways with those you love.

I would really enjoy your insights, challenges, comments, and questions. I invite you to a phone or face-to-face conversation about discipleship, faith formation, and God’s work in deliberate discipleship. Send me an email and we can connect or I’ll help you find your Faith Formation Ministries Regional Catalyzer for your area church or family. Here’s my email: [email protected].

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