Thursday, August 28, 2008

Adult Christian Formation and Congregational Renewal

An idea for congregational discipleship

This is a proposal for a multi-year program for adult formation and congregational renewal. Each year the congregation organizes its learning ministry, especially among adults, around one of four themes: our shared faith, the liturgy and sacraments, Christian living, and prayer

These themes are broad and interconnect with all of the Christian life. They are, in fact, drawn from the great catechetical tradition of the Church. It is believed that the ongoing and lively catechesis of adults within a congregation will also enhance the church’s effort to educate and confirm children and youth.

The annual themes for Christian formation and congregational renewal are broad enough to allow virtually any topic to be taught or discussed. They emphasize basic lenses for entering these topics and connecting them with the whole of Christian faith. For example, social justice is typically address from the viewpoint of responsible Christian living, yet one can consider the role of prayer in working for just or how a congregation’s observance of the Lord’s table addresses solidarity with the poor and oppressed or how Christ’s redemptive work applies to structural injustice and human deprivation as a consequences of sin.

Four themes for life-long catechesis

Christian formation, or discipleship, is a life-long process. Our confirmation class provides a systematic presentation of the Christian faith, a catechism, to our youth, and yet many of our adults have not gone through a comparable process. Even so catechesis does not end at Confirmation.

As adults we need to return time and again to the fundamentals (as ordered in Luther’s Small Catechism): the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments. Put into more contemporary language, these themes of renewal are

  • Knowing our shared faith (the authority of Christ & the Creed)
  • Celebrating the liturgy and sacraments
  • Walking our life together (sanctification & the Ten Commandment)
  • Living our prayer (the Lord’s Prayer)

These are themes of congregational and personal renewal. Each time we take a fresh look, we discover new insights into who and whose we are. We learn new ways to understand, share and live our faith. The Spirit leads us into new dimensions of life and deep connectedness.

Christian formation is not an individualistic endeavor. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the Church. As a congregation, we called to discipleship and empowered for this task. Consider the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

The Great Commission

Themes for Formation & Renewal

And Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been give to me.

Knowing our shared faith involves understanding the authority revealed in Christ and professed in the Church.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Celebrating the liturgy and sacraments involves connecting the gathered body of Christ and drawing others into the sacramental life of the Church.

“and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Walking our life together is a life of obedience to Christ, living in the freedom to do God’s will through the Holy Spirit.

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Living our prayer means remembering Christ in all things and dwelling continually in his presence.

Where we go from here

This is an incomplete proposal. How do we put this into practice? How does this truly lead to congregational renewal? I hope to develop these ideas further, but I need your help. Please post your comments, ideas, suggestion or simple encouragement. Let's have a discussion.

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