Following Jesus for life

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For the last 300+ years, through the period of modernity, the Christian church has largely embraced an educational-schooling model of faith formation, which is not working.

For 40 years John Westerhoff has been saying, “Schooling and instruction have become the panaceas for all our needs. Faith cannot be taught by any method of instruction; we can only teach religion. We can know about religion, but we can only expand in faith, act in faith, live in faith. Faith can be inspired within a community of faith, but it cannot be given to one person by another. Faith is expressed, transformed, and made meaningful by persons sharing their faith in an historical, tradition-bearing community of faith. The schooling instructional paradigm is bankrupt.”

Saying it bluntly, putting your child into a Sunday School class (or its equivalent) is not producing followers of Jesus with a robust faith.

David Kinnaman adds, “Like a Geiger counter under a mushroom cloud, the next generation is reacting to the radioactive intensity of social, technological, and religious changes. And for the most part, we are sending them into the world unprepared to withstand the fallout.”

Sticky Faith author, Kara Powell states, “Faith trajectories are often set in early adolescence. Sadly, most youth ministries are long on fun and fluff and short on listening and thoughtful engagement. The former produces a million paper boats; the latter produces a handful of seaworthy ships.”

And when you add the research by Phillip Hughes, Director of Christian Research Australia into the equation, we realise the urgency of the situation, “More than 50,000 young people a year are leaving the Christian faith and deciding that they have ‘no religion’.

For the last 3 years a number of key agencies and denominations have been working together to explore a response to this current situation and to encourage and equip a rethinking process around our mission, given by Jesus, to ‘make disciples’. Our vision is for followers of Jesus to be ‘here2stay’.

There is no new resource, or program, or course that is going to change the current situation. Real change will be effected when leaders of faith communities across Australia, work within their faith community to formulate their long term, localised strategies for creating life long, active followers of Jesus.

The Here2Stay initiative has identified 10 formational experiences that we believe have a strong influence on faith formation, when they are intentionally embraced and consistently outworked within a faith community – over the long term.

Bill Hybels speaks about one of these when he says, “The upcoming generation confronts an obstacle to belief that goes beyond worship style, teaching relevance, or church program excellence, because it’s not about what is happening at church. It’s about what’s missing at home….…generational faith transference is in serious decline.”

None of these formational experiences are new, and of course, there are more than 10. But let these initial 10 begin your rethinking journey, shape your discipleship strategies and so help to build followers of Jesus who are here to stay.

Take the time to check out www.here2stay.org.au, and over the next weeks we will be having a look at each of the formational experiences in detail.  We would love to hear stories from you, of how you’re seeing these experiences lived out in your local ministry.

Article by Terry Williams

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