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Living Faith: growing disciples for the 21st century

By Rev. Janet Staines

What does it mean to have a vibrant, living growing faith in our secular community?

How do we nurture Christian spirituality when the symbols and rituals that point us to faith are slowly disappearing from public life?

What does an intentional discipling community that engages people in intergenerational faith formation look like in our digital age?

Christian churches in Australia have had a highly integrated religious ecosystem. It was comprised of multigenerational family faith practice and religious transmission at home; strong congregational community relationships and church life, especially participation in Sunday worship; weekly Sunday school for children and youth (and in many cases adults); and church groups (youth, men, women). Many Christian traditions have relied heavily on the ethnic faith traditions of their people to transmit faith from generation to generation—at home and at church. And all of this has been surrounded by a culture that explicitly or implicitly supported the Christian value system and Christian practices. (John Roberto

However, this ecosystem has eroded over the past several decades because of all the changes in the culture and society, the family, technology and communication, and more. The environment has changed, and the relationship between congregational faith formation and its environment has changed. We need a new faith formation ecosystem that reflects this changed context. John Roberto suggests this new ecosystem incorporates five, essential, interconnected components:

  1. Intergenerational faith formation in the congregation

  2. Age group and generational faith formation in a variety of physical places and online spaces

  3. Family faith formation at home

  4. Missional faith formation to the spiritual but not religious and the unaffiliated

  5. Online and digital faith formation

The image of the seed being held in multicultural, intergenerational hands was taken during our first worship service for the year. This image speaks of nurturing life as something that is precious. It is supported by a diverse community that brings together people from different experiences, different ages, and different cultures. It also speaks of the responsibility we all have in a community to nurture faith and new life in each other.

It shares a vision of the kind of community we want to be and inspires us to develop an ecosystem that reflects our changed context and intentionally forms disciples for the 21st century.

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