Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Part 2 -- The shelter, nurture and spiritual fellowship of the children of God

Sheltering the children of God, to me, is not protecting them from the world or keeping them safe from controversial ideas. But it IS providing a place where believers with robust faiths as well as believers who have more fragile faiths can be together as a community, learning, worshipping, fellowshipping, and mutually nurturing each other.

I was baptized at the age of 10 in a Presbyterian Church. I remember my parents promising to bring me up in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Our denomination dropped that phrase along the way, but baptisms today still involve not only the parents making promises to bring their child up in the church, but the congregation also making a promise to support the parents and teach this newly baptized member of the family of God.

How are we nurturing our fellow Christians, especially those who are still searching? Too many times and in too many places I have heard visitors asking “What does this church believe?” and being told “Well, we tend to be all over the map when it comes to beliefs, so don’t worry about it.”

Beau Weston, a professor of Sociology at Centre College in Kentucky, as well as a Presbyterian elder, had this to say in the April 2004 issue of Presbyterians Today:

Weston says Christians always tell pollsters that what they want is "good music and good preaching," but "what they really want from religion is religion."

"Liberal churches that work hard to accommodate the secular world by offering a refined, intellectual, reasonable faith," Weston told Christianity Today, "keep losing people to the even more reasonable pleasures of the newspaper, the golf course, and the warm bed."”

This article is about the growth of evangelicism in congregations of the PC(USA). The title is “Presbyterian Evangelicals – They just might be on to something.” I recommend you read the whole article.

Dr. Weston (who is also a blogger) spoke at my home church on the characteristics of growing congregations. He noted that strict churches tended to grow while non-strict churches tended to lose members. “Strict” in this sense does not refer to harsh discipline or requiring members to “toe the line”, but rather telling prospective members up front that “this is where we stand as a church.”

You don’t nurture a beginning swimmer by tossing them in the deep end and seeing how they perform, any more than you nurture a new believer by telling them to come up with what works for them in terms of theology. The “nurture and admonition of the Lord” applies not only to children, but those who are young in faith and even those who are mature in their faith. If they are seeking answers, we should be able to provide them with answers. If we truly shelter, nurture, and fellowship with the believers in our home congregations then we provide a place where faith can flourish.

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