I’ve been visiting churches across our Presbytery, meeting the ministers and attending worship services. In my conversation with ministers, I have tried to ask “Apart from Sunday worship, what happens to help people grow in faith and discipleship?” Their responses have been varied and interesting. I’m learning a lot about the rich diversity of our congregations.
I’m going to continue blogging about ways to think about how we envision, plan for and resource lifelong faith development. Here is one way, based on the theological work of Geoffrey Wainwright, my systematic theology teacher at Duke University. In his landmark book Doxology, Wainwright talks about the dynamic relationship between Christian worship, Christian theology and Christian living.
According to Wainwright, worship, doctrine and life exist in a dynamic relationship with one another. His systematic theology gives both biblical and historical examples of how each of these have influenced each other across time and contexts. Liturgy, theology and ethics are inter-related.
Worship and Belief
Our experience of worship shapes our Christian beliefs
Our Christian beliefs shape our worship
Belief and Living
Our Christian beliefs shape our everyday lives
Our everyday experiences shape our Christian beliefs
Worship and Living
Our experience of worship shapes our everday lives
Our everyday lives shape our worship
– how did the charismatic movement influence Christian worship?
– why did liberation theology arise in Latin America?
– how do beliefs about Creation shape our attitudes to the environment?
– how is the belief in the Trinity reflected in our worship?
– what happens in worship to gather up our daily concerns with God?
– when has the experience of worship significantly changed how you live?
These associations can be seen as having liturgical and theological dimensions, but also as having formational and educational dimensions. Our growth in faith and discipleship involves experience, exploration and integration of these three areas of being Christian. So, people’s learning in faith involves making conscious (and maybe also unconscious) connections between these three.
How and where are people helped to explore these connections outside of Sunday worship – individually, in small groups, with mentors, via print or media resources, opportunities for prayer and reflection, through spiritual disciplines?
Worship, beliefs and living come together in Christian faith practices, or practices of discipleship
- Faith practices are expressions of our faith in daily living
- Faith practices are the embodiment of out Christian beliefs and convictions
- Faith practices express our daily worship of our Creator
So a focus on discipleship practices in the life of a Christian community – whether Bible study, generosity, prayer, seeking justice, hospitality or whatever – is an invitation to explore how worship, belief and life intersect in ways which embody our participation in the ongoing mission of Jesus Christ in the world. Formation and education in Christian faith in the context of a worshipping community involve intentional participation in learning through Christian practices as well as learning Christian beliefs. Both the being and the doing of discipleship are central to learning in the community of faith.
Photo: Springvale Uniting Church worship led by Rev Paul Dau