In 2005 the annual leadership convention of our denomination, synod, challenged Christian Reformed congregations to make faith nurture, our efforts to grow in faith and spiritual maturity, a special focus for this coming church year.
It recommended that we ora et labora, pray and work—and in that order. We can cultivate, plant, and water all we want, but only the Spirit can bless our efforts with spiritual growth. So pray.
It also asked us to focus on three related tasks: (1) placing special emphasis on building strong faith-nurturing ministries for all ages, (2) leading people to spiritual maturity, and (3) raising up spiritual leaders (Acts of Synod 2005, p. 719).
Synod observed, “These recommendations would serve the churches well as they celebrate our 150th anniversary in 2007 under the theme ‘Grace Through Every Generation.’”
Synod was onto something. What messages do we think we hand down from generation to generation, and what messages do we really pass on?
- Kids are told that church education is important, but adults don’t attend Sunday school or catechism. Why is that? Maybe this is the year we should take a leaf from the Southern Baptists, who still go to Sunday school when they’re retired.
- In worship we sing “I Love Thy Church, O God,” but that wears thin when household conversations in front of the wee ones constantly focus on criticizing the church and roasting its leaders. Maybe this year we could find something that really annoys us about church and work patiently, lovingly, and stubbornly at fixing it—with lips zipped and hearts in a better place.
- We decry consumerism but practice it in church, expecting to receive a lot more than we’re prepared to invest. Maybe this really is the year we should find something worthwhile to do in church, even if it cuts painfully into our golfing or gaming times.
- We claim the Bible is God’s Word, but our kids or roommates rarely see us with our nose in it—if ever. They catch us mining a lot more “truth” from Oprah and football commentators. Maybe this is a good year to get serious about household devotions.
- We say we never retire from God’s kingdom—yet few of our elders are elderly. What’s up with that? Why should younger folks up to their eyeballs building careers and families have to do the heavy lifting when so much experience and know-how vacations in Florida or Mexico? Maybe this year we should stay home and consider our own council room and congregation great places for a working vacation.
Why this year? Because the denomination says so? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe just because the Spirit prods us. Time to pray, blow the dust off those Bibles, and engage. Test God in this. Give the best of your time, talents, and service to build yourself and God’s people up in faith, and you’ll never regret it.
Then the generation that follows will actually believe what we say—and bless the next with what we hand them.