Saturday, February 24, 2018

Intentional Faith Development

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“The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.” (Acts 2:42 CEB)

What does it mean to be a disciple, to follow Jesus? The word translated as “disciple” means to be a “learner” or a “pupil”. A disciple is someone who learns from their teacher and as Christians our Teacher is Jesus Christ. A disciple is a life-long “pupil” of Jesus Christ, always learning, growing and sharing. The motto of First UMC is “making disciples, making a difference.” We are a church committed to making disciples through Intentional Faith Development.

Intentional Faith Development describes the practice of churches that view the ministries of Christian education and formation, small group work, and Bible study as absolutely critical to their mission and consistently offer opportunities for people of all ages, interests, and faith experiences, to learn in community. They consciously and deliberately cover the whole age spectrum, fostering faith development outside of worship during the course of the year for children, youth, young adults, singles, couples, middle-aged adults, and older adults. They support and maintain existing Sunday School classes, studies, music ministries, and women’s and men’s organizations, but they also continually fill the gaps with short-term, long-term, and topical small group ministries and start new classes especially designed for guests and new members. Churches that practice Intentional Faith Development know the secret of small groups and constantly offer new possibilities for people to engage Christ by engaging one another.

We at First UMC firmly believe that the practice of Intentional Faith Development is vital to the life of a disciple and to the mission of our church. Intentional Faith Development builds community. In a larger church, it is critical to develop many small-group ministries, because it is through these groups that we will grow deeper in our faith. Small groups for faith development let us get to know others in a deeper way, to share life together, to support one another in crisis, and to have companions along the journey. This is one of the blessings God gives His children—to live in community.

Intentional Faith Development communicates content. Relationships are very important, but there are also things we need to know to be disciples. We need to know the Bible. We need to know something about our doctrine and Wesleyan heritage. We need to deal with life’s tough issues on a deeper level. It’s good to know our spiritual gifts. It’s good to experience the means of grace consistently. We need to engage our time and energy in mission and ministry. It’s important to develop intentionally the content of our faith.

Intentional Faith Development supports the process of salvation. Salvation is not just a one-time event; it is a process, a day by day walk with God, learning and growing intentionally along the way. Our mission at First UMC is to initiate people into Christian discipleship. We are all about making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and we are about providing people with the means to continually deepen and widen their relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. John Wesley called this “sanctification”—being made holy. Disciple-making is a life-long process.