In preparing for a presentation last week I was led to reflect on the nature and dynamics of faith formation. The visual above was the outcome of my musings.
At the risk of generalisation, can I suggest that there are three basic, interdependent Spirit-empowered “processes” that are at play in the making of persons and communities in the likeness of Christ?
The first process is that of EDUCATION, the communication of the content of faith, particularly Biblical knowledge and doctrinal understandings.
The second process is TRAINING in the skills, practices and habits of Christian faith, the expressions of faith that characterise and constitute the Christian way of life. These faith expressions include prayer, use of the Scriptures, worship and devotional habits and stewardship. Together they represent the conduct of faith.
The third process is PARTICIPATION in Christian community, active and reciprocal engagement with other believers in a shared and collective journey of discipleship. The Christian community is the foundational context for the life of faith. While Christ followers are called to live out their faith in all of life, life in Christ proceeds from and continually loops back into the body of Christ.
In the visual above, education (content), training (conduct) and participation (context) are pictured as three spheres. It is my “hunch” that faith formation is most fruitful and lifegiving when and where these three spheres intersect. Perhaps this can be established by considering what ensues from the absence of one or more of the processes. Content without conduct results in disconnection of Scripture and Christian teachings from the concrete practice of daily life. Content without context leaves the subject of faith formation without tangible experience of the “God story” as a dynamic, unfolding reality in the life of God’s people. Conduct without content results in empty ritual, religious performance without a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Conduct without context diminishes the basic expressions of faith, for they are inherently communal. Context without content results in an experience of community that has no roots and no connection with God’s larger story. Context without conduct leaves the participant with few “tools” for a life of faith beyond an immediate experience of community life.
If there is such a thing as a faith formation “sweet spot”, perhaps it exists at the intersection of education (content), training (conduct) and participation (context) … where a child or young person is not simply learning the content of the Christian faith but being mentored by mature Christians in the conduct (habits and practices) of the life of faith, and participating in a loving and affirming Christian community in which the living Christ is given and received through one another.
What do you think?