Home » Congregational Life » Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part One

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part One

First in a Series

This post and the ones that follow share the development of a project which I’ve been working on since June of 2015. The Board of Cooperative Ministries has sponsored and overseen this work. I didn’t think it would ever have a name, but finally we found one that rang true for those involved in this process. We now call it Living Faith.

This blog starts with my comments regarding the development of a model of church life that we believe can invigorate our congregations. You may find that some of my comments ring true for you, while others might have you objecting out loud. I hope you share both in response to this blog.

There’s nothing official in this. These are only my thoughts based on my reading of the Bible and my experience as a Moravian for a lot of years. There are three things that the Church must be doing in order to fulfill God’s call to be a Church:

1) provide for the spiritual growth of its members,

2) find ways to do outreach in the surrounding community and the world, and

3) regular times of worship.

Everything else the Church does is probably good but is not essential to its calling.

Living Faith Small Group Ministry

I’ve shared this idea about church life with several people, and the response sometimes follows a common theme. The response was that the Church does well–and sometimes very well–on outreach and worship, but its efforts in fostering the spiritual growth of its members are often insufficient. That’s not to say that it does nothing to help spiritual growth happen. It’s just that it doesn’t receive as much focus as worship and outreach. We tend to invest our energy and resources in worship–with its creative use of music, scripture, prayer and sermon–and in outreach through which we hope to enable others to experience Christ’s love through us. Spiritual growth is seen as a personal, individual endeavor and so is left to the devices of the individual members to achieve as they are aided in a broad sense by the activities of the Church, such as worship, and by one’s own initiative, such as daily devotions. I believe that corporate and individual worship are not enough to enable our spiritual growth. More is needed from the Church to make this happen in our lives.

Now that’s not to suggest that nothing is done to encourage spiritual growth. There are several things the Church does that appear on the surface to focus on spiritual growth, but their success in the area of spiritual growth and maturity is limited because of a variety of factors. One example is Sunday School. A lot of good comes from Sunday School—

  • In the younger classes, a foundation of Bible knowledge is laid for the children’s faith. This is invaluable! We should do more of this and find ways to include more of our children in this wonderful experience.
  • During the adolescent years, young people are led through a process of examining their beliefs and how these beliefs and their faith relate to their experience of life and the world.
  • In adulthood, a major and often unspoken priority centers on long-term relationships. If this is not obvious, try changing the membership of some of those decades-long classes.

All of these benefits are important, and they all are needed for spiritual growth to happen. They are foundation stones for this. But none of them equates to spiritual growth that is integral to the Church’s mission. Occasionally a Sunday School class fosters deep spiritual growth. However, in my experience only small steps are usually taken in this regard. There are several reasons for this that I’ll share in a future post. For now, I’ll just suggest that Sunday School does a lot of good, but spiritual growth requires additional factors that aren’t found in most Sunday School experiences. The same could be said of a lot of Bible studies that are found in many churches.

The Church does lots of things in addition to Sunday School and Bible studies. Many of these fall under the areas of outreach and worship. Many of them do good and achieve much. But most of them lack the elements that are necessary to make spiritual growth happen.

In my next post, I hope to answer the question that’s bound to be in your mind–okay, if something else is needed, what would that be?

In the meantime, you might want to think about your experiences in church, particularly about those experiences that have helped you growth spiritually.

And what does spiritual growth and maturity look like? That’s something else I’ll write about soon.

Thanks for putting up with my thoughts. I look forward to seeing yours in a response.

Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly

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4 thoughts on “Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part One

  1. I agree with you that spiritual growth is a difficult concept to understand; bridging faith with the realities of everyday life. The problem I see is that we are looking for too complicated of a solution when it can be as simple as this: The underlying premise is that we must all agree on one thing; we have a “living” God. We also must agree that we are all predestined to conform to the image of Christ, not the “God” part of His being, but His Jesus the human part of Christ. (Romans 8:29)
    Then we pray: “I want to be like Jesus.”
    It is as simple as that. The Holy Spirit would like nothing better than to help answer that prayer and in so doing, the Holy Spirit comes alive in the believer and we know that there is a living God. In our sphere of influence that we walk in each day lie the opportunities to listen to the Holy Spirit direct us to our opportunities to be like Jesus.
    The church then, during Sunday school, the music , the worship and the sermon, helps people see the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the opportunities in everyday life that come up, to practice our destiny of being like Jesus.
    When I hear the words “Obey the commandments”, I can’t help but think that includes “Sit here while I pray” -Mark 14:34 and following the commandment includes not falling asleep.
    The Holy Spirit has “commandments”. They usually are commands to put your to-do-list aside for a moment and go over there, Jesus is needed.

    • Mike,
      I don’t find much in your response with which I disagree. However, as my posts continue I will be more specific regarding the things that enable our growth.
      You might have noted in my post that I suggested that something more is needed beyond Sunday School, music, worship and the sermon. I promised to write about these in my next post. I hope you don’t mind waiting a few days until I get this into a cohesive form.
      Thanks for responding! I appreciate your interest in something I feel is vital to our Church.

  2. Pingback: Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Three | Unity...Liberty...Love

  3. Pingback: Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Four | Unity...Liberty...Love

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