“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” – Acts 2:42 NLT
“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.” – Colossians 3:16a NLT
Intentional faith development is one of the areas that we have embraced in our ministry plan because we believe it is important for every Christian to grow more Christlike. You see spiritual growth does not happen automatically. Intentional Faith Development begins with a deliberate choice to do what is needed to grow our faith. In Acts 2:42 we find the Christians devoted themselves to the apostles teaching (today found in the Scriptures), and to fellowship, (not just idle chit chat about the weather, but sharing our lives and spiritual gifts with one another so we grow as disciples), breaking of bread (sharing food & communion) and prayer. As we practice all of these spiritual disciplines, we are putting ourselves in a place where God can work on us. It is one of the best ways in which the Spirit can work to renew our thoughts and attitudes.
Let’s also remember Intentional Faith Development is a lifelong practice. Too often in the United Methodist Church, we stop growing our faith after confirmation…but that is when the real growing should begin! Paul, in his letters to the early church, often made the distinction between mature Christians and baby Christians. In the church today, we have many people who have been Christians for a long time, but who are still “babies” in faith. Growing to become more like Jesus should be the goal of every disciple of Jesus Christ.
Intentional Faith Development happens best in community. Robert Schanse in his book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, on which we based our ministry plan says, “People cannot learn grace, forgiveness, patience, kindness, gentleness and joy, simply by reading a book. These are aspects of spiritual formation that one learns from community, through intentional engagement.” P. 62
One effective way to practice intentional faith development is to be part of a small group of 8-12 people who talk about faith issues & pray together. This fall we will be launching “Growth Groups” or small groups. The purpose of these groups is to help us grow in our friendships with one another, as well as to grow in our relationship with Jesus, with the help of other people who are on the same spiritual journey of discipleship.
We want to encourage everyone to participate in one of these groups. The groups will last 6 weeks and will then dissolve and we will reestablish different groups in the spring. The groups would involve a 6 week – 8 week commitment depending on the study that is used. The first study will be 6 weeks. Each group will be using the same material this fall, a small group study entitled “Not a Fan,” which will go along with our fall sermon series beginning on Oct. 8.
Our hope is to have these groups meet in people’s homes with one person hosting and another person acting as facilitator (showing the DVD & asking the questions from the leader’s guide.). This small group series is based on a DVD, so we will need to find houses with DVD players/ TV’s.
I want you to begin praying now about being part of one of these groups, and considering opening your home or being the facilitator of a group. In September we will be encouraging people to sign up to be in a group which will begin the week of Oct 8.
Let’s Connect and Grow this Fall!!
Grace and Peace,