Intentional Faith Development

Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on March 23, 2014, the Third Sunday in Lent.  It is part of a sermon series based on Robert Schnase’s Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

We are 3/5 of the way through this sermon series on Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations.  The first practice is Radical Hospitality.  We pray that we go out of our way here at Resurrection to be inviting and welcoming to everyone who enters the doors.  The second practice is Passionate Worship.  Last week Pastor Carol encouraged us to be fully present when we worship, leaving the distractions of the world behind so that we can truly hear God’s Word and give our best praise and thanksgiving.

 

Today we concentrate on what it means to grow in the faith, to become mature Christians.  Robert Schnase, the author of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, says that growing in Christ requires more than weekly worship.  We need to study God’s Word in a group of fellow believers.  We need to take seriously the way Jesus and the early Church passed on the faith from one to the other.

 

Remember the Church of Jesus Christ was formed on Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit came into the disciples and they began to preach and teach.  After the Day of Pentecost what did believers do?  According to Acts 2:42, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.”

 

I want you to get a picture in your mind of the way Jesus taught the faith while he was ministering here on earth.  The Gospels are very clear about this.  He gathered a group of people in order that he could teach them stories and lessons from God.  We see people sitting on hillsides beside the Sea of Galilee, we see the disciples in a boat listening to Jesus, and we see Jesus sitting in the Courtyard of the Temple teaching people.

 

Robert Schnase is a United Methodist Bishop, so naturally he shares some stories about John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.  John Wesley had rules for Bible Classes and a Covenant that people were required to sign:  attend public worship of God…including the reading and expounding of the Holy Scripture and receiving the Supper of the Lord…and to commit to private prayer and searching of scripture.

 

Why are Bible Study and Christian Education so important in the life of Christians and for the Church?  Because Bible Study and Christian Education changes churches and the people who are in those churches.  Bishop Schnase says that church leaders who take their own spiritual growth seriously and immerse themselves in study of scripture, prayer and fellowship, understand the purpose of the Church and point of doing ministry differently.   He asks this question: How can church leaders make good faith decisions for the congregation without proper grounding in faith? 

 

Peter Drucker, the guru of business and management, once said that “the purpose of leadership in the church is not to make the church more business-like, but the make the church more church-like.”  Here’s what he meant.  While church leaders should apply their knowledge of business, accounting, real estate, the law, and banking to enhance the church’s effectiveness and accountability, they cannot lose sight of the purpose of the church, which is derived from the life, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

Today we are speaking of Intentional Faith Development.  Intentional refers to deliberate effort, purposeful action toward an end, and high prioritization.  Where Intentional Faith Development fit into your life?  Into the life of Resurrection Lutheran Church?

 

What is the end purpose of Bible Study and Christian Education?  Why do we cultivate our hearts and minds this way?  What effect will it have on our children and on the adults alike?

The end we are striving for is “having the same mind in us that was in Christ Jesus” (according to Philippians 2:5).  Here’s how it works:  As we mature in Christ, God cultivates in us the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

 

Think of maturing in the faith this way…Last evening we enjoyed students of all ages from the Muggivan School of Dance in Fredericksburg.  The youngest was 4 and ½ and the oldest was 13.  We could see the effect of practice and experience before our very eyes.  Their teacher explained that the dancers are given instruction and encouragement in class, but they must go home and practice in order to hone their skills and advance.  Isn’t that true of anything in life we value and want to advance in?  I am amazed at how many folks study hard for their school and work and yet think that becoming knowledgeable in the Bible and maturing in faith somehow seem to appear out of nowhere without any work of effort.

 

Yesterday I attended the funeral service in Norfolk for our Bishop’s younger sister, Carol Robinson.  Carol’s daughter, Katie,  a college student, gave a short eulogy.  What she said should make us all think.  She implored the parents in the congregation to “bring their kids to Sunday School and Worship, even if they don’t want to go.”  She said that she does not know how she would have ever gotten through her mom’s 7 months of cancer and now death without knowing the promises of Jesus and the faith of her church family.

 

I pray that this congregation, each of you, will take seriously what it means to grow in Christian faith, to make study of God’s Word and Christian Education a high priority.

 

Just in case you need a reminder and invitation for the Bible Study and Christian Education that being offered here at Resurrection, here they are:

9:45 on Sunday Mornings: Sunday School for children, ages 3 through 5th grade, upstairs; Confirmation Study for youth in grades 6-7-8 in the Conference Room; Bible Study for high school and young adults in the Choir Room (Romans); Adult Forum in the Fellowship Hall (today we study Jesus and his Revolution of Love)

9:30 am. Wednesday Women’s Bible Study

First Saturday 8:00 a.m. Men’s Prayer Breakfast and Bible Study

 

Please come for your own growth in faith, for growth of your family, and for the growth in faith of Resurrection Lutheran Church.

 

Amen!