Saturday, April 09, 2005

The role of community in spiritual formation?

Have we placed too much importance on the role of the community in somebody's spiritual formation? I think not, but let me explain what brought me to ask such a question?

Over my relatively short years in church life and ministry, I've just seen far too many people lose their faith when they lose their community. Whether that be a church, small group or bunch of mates. Without those people with whom many found or nurtered their faith, people seem to struggle to assimilate that faith into their own daily lives.

This is perhaps part of the reason that nine out of ten young people who finish school and youth group are no longer a part of a church by the age of 25. (They're official statistics from NZ, but the situation is pretty much similar here) Its great when young people have a solid base of friends walking the same road they are, bu they need to learn to walk it alone.

Of course, just because somebody has left the church does not mean they have left their faith, but from my experience a great deal do.

I think we need to encourage people to live out and explore faith with others, but their faith also needs to be sustainable enough to survive losing their community...


Garth said...

I have seen and questioned similarly. One of my friends many years ago left the church when all the friends in his group got married. He put it down to not actually having a faith in the end, but enjoying the good feelings that come from Christians being friends. Once they got married the friendship dynamics changed and did his whole social world, the good feelings went...he was never connected to God in the first place...for him it was a mirage...a nice mirage...but still a mirage. And he's now 'been there done that' and to my knowledge never returned.

We need to be serious about Christ being allowed presence in these communities. Whatever that might look like.

Anonymous said...

Such a great call Digs.
I sometimes question where i'd go with my faith if i didn't have the people around me that i do. And i'm totally not sure, and probably won't be until i'm put in that situation, which i don't wanna be (but looks like i'll have to to learn this lesson, maybe).
But how do you create or nurture the 'relying on God only' side of things within such a 'safe' community?
I guess taking yourself out of that community for a while, whether it's for a short or long time, seems a good way to test your faith. More over, how do we prepare people for times when a support network of christian mates isn't there?
It leaves me in awe of CHristians in countries like China where Christians are put in prison and stuff, and literally have no one but God. hmmmm.
again, great call Digs. This young adult 'issue' is really hitting ya, isn't it?
catchya soon.

Digger said...

Yeah thats so true, for so many people it does become a 'been there done that' mentality, then they leave it behind.

For you now Garth, being somebody who's not in any specific community of faith (am I right in saying that? Hope I'm not being presumptious there?) how does spiritual formation work for you? I'd be interested to hear your reflections on that?

Digger said...

Yeah like you wouldn't believe Mase.

And yeah, you're right, the question simply is "how do we prepare people for times when a support network of christian mates isn't there?"

I've got no idea at this stage, but its something we're gonna be a whole lot more intentional about looking at with VET this year.

Anonymous said...

If only they knew how hard it was hitting you...
i mean, if people knew how much it means to you for them to be active in faith, i'm sure it'd inspire them to be more active. but maybe that's not the right sort of motivations...
anyways, just wanted to say that last nite during sharing time, it was such a great call on your part to suggest that we pray for our Catholic bro's n sis' after the passing of the Pope. I think a lot of people have been more touched by the whole episode than they expected, like Roh said last night, and me included.
I love it sooooo much when an attitude of understanding and love for one another comes out, esp. inter-denominational type stuff, like it has with the Pope's death. That's a lot of what he was on about too. :) Sharing time was great last night. anyways, haha bit off topic but thats ok, just thought i should give u a thumbs up on the call. You're an absolute champ, i'm so proud of you ;) lol.
love me.

Anonymous said...

Lately, i have been struggling with defining the role of community within a spiritual context. i cant stray from acknowledging it's importance; i feel community holds an integral part of my own spiritual growth and understanding to this point. however, i have too commonly witnessed (and quite possibly been a perpetraitor of!) the pitfalls of a 'spiritual' connection purely based upon community. So, does this come down to finding a happy medium between using community as a tool for personal spiritual formation, and the appeal of an inviting community to bring in others?

They are my thoughts; would love to hear of yours!

Gareth Williams said...

I guess there's a pretty good reason why the author of Hebrews said to not give up the habit of meeting together.
I've found that over the past 9 months I've missed a strong community as I've been in transition.
Last Sunday night I spent some time praying with a friend for the first time in ages and it was so good.

John M said...

i think an important part of a faith community is that it needs to actually encourage you to discover the truth for yourself, and discover Jesus in a totally personal way, so you don't end up "believing" just what everyone else says. A good faith community should help people move beyond belief to convictions.
thats what i reckon anyways.
don't quite know how it all works out yet though, am still discovering through that bit.

Digger said...

Yeah mase I reckon if your own spiritual formation isn't a priority for your own reasons, then it shouldn't be done for other's reasons.

Haha, I can't claim credit for the mentioning the Catholics, Cindy brought it up during the week when I caught up with her then. I wasn't sure if she'd remembered so I brought it up!

Digger said...

Hey AJ my good mofo, good to see you commenting here :)

Great thoughts there man, good stuff. I think you're right that our faith community should be both a place of personal spiritual formation and an inviting place for those still not sure. If we are being all we are called to be, they will, as Jesus says, know us by our love.

Not sure i understand where you're coming from in about a spiritual connection based purely on community-please explain?

Digger said...

Yeah good call Johnman, i'm with ya there. And good to see ya back Gaz!