Writing about personal spiritual habits and disciplines, Professor Craig Dykstra of Duke Divinity School says this:
“Christian practices are not activities we do to make something spiritual happen in our lives. Nor are they duties we undertake to be obedient to God. Rather, they are patterns of communal action that create openings in our lives where the grace, mercy, and presence of God may be made known to us. They are places where the power of God is experienced. In the end they are not ultimately our practices, but forms of participation in the practice of God”
In other words, Dykstra is suggesting that as we develop habits and activities which might enable us to grow in faith, what we are really doing is participating in the work of God, and this is as true for churches as it is for individual Christians. The practices and habits we develop create opportunities in which God can shape us and through which we can become the kind of churches he calls us to be.
Schnase says that when we think about the characteristics and marks of fruitful churches, such as radical hospitality, passionate worship and so on, we shouldn’t view them as things our churches either have or don’t have. Instead he suggests we think about all of them as things that any church can adopt, change, develop or improve. So if we are not yet the kind of people or the kind of church that God calls us to be, we simply begin to act like it by adopting the necessary practices until they help us to grow into the Christians or the congregations God intended.
Intentional faith development is therefore about adopting the kinds of behaviours and habits which put u in the best possible place where we can see what God is doing, and be transformed by him working in and through us.
Today Schnase invites us to consider how we can turn the ‘values’ of hospitality and faith development into the ‘practices’ of Radical Hospitality and Intentional Faith Development.
He offers us this prayer and challenge:
When my life is crowded with daily cares and fears, Lord,
help me make time to focus on your words so that by the power of your Spirit
I may walk forth in your light with confidence.
Challenge: Adopt a personal practice of Christian discipleship that creates an opening for God’s mercy, grace, and presence to enter in, such as a weekly study with others or a daily time of prayer or reading.