Holy Habits: Nurture Acts 3: 1-10

Who has placed a child in a college where you no longer have any real say?  You pray they will instinctively make good decisions because they’ve been immersed in family nurture.  You have done your job; the rest is up to them.  I feel that way each Sunday at the time of benediction; sending you out to witness to your faith.  I pray the worship experience we offered you inspires to be a witness and tell salvation’s story to others.  I think we do that well.  It takes more than worship to enable people to be a witness.

The church must also provide a system of nurture that equips you to witness to the power of Christ’s saving work.  Organizational demands, institutional necessities, and  theological minutia can cause us to lose the simple focus of faith.  A church can lose its soul when acting on simple faith is no longer the norm. I want us to be the kind church that enables you to hear the cacophony of injustices and hurts; and then to offer yourselves freely in complete trust as Christ’s servants to our hurting world.  Persons will go places they never thought they would go if their church is nurturing them into servant disciples.  Today we reconsider the processes that nurture disciples.

Peter and John encounter a lame beggar at the Beautiful Gate.  Peter says, “I have no money, but I give you something else.  Get up and walk.”  The man got up and walked.  We see Jesus’ disciples demonstrating bold faith in their new community.  They are living like they believe the kingdom of God has come and God’s reign is happening.  They experience Christ’s power by acting on their faith.  They experienced resurrection power when they went beyond their current knowledge and previous faith and act on this faith of the kingdom’s promises.  We will live like the kingdom of God has come here on earth as it is in heaven when we are carefully nurtured by an authentic fellowship and devoted to life changing discipleship.  

1. An authentic fellowship activates faith.  During Christendom, persons did not have to learn how to be a Christian it was passed down by culture.  A soul was decay proof upon drinking the fluoridated baptismal waters of Christian culture.  Christians codified values, celebrated faith in festivals, and promoted spiritual growth in the society.  Lest we’re tempted to romanticize; the church was swallowed up by Roman culture.  The faithful lost their identity and had no unique witness to offer.  Loss of boundary meant over time there was nothing distinguishing about the fellowship of the church.  We are to differentiate our nurture in the fellowship from care in our culture.ked.  We see Jesus’ disciples demonstrating bold faith in their new community.  They are living like they believe the kingdom of God has come and God’s reign is happening.  They experience Christ’s power by acting on their faith.  They experienced resurrection power when they went beyond their current knowledge and previous faith and act on this faith of the kingdom’s promises.  We will live like the kingdom of God has come here on earth as it is in heaven when we are carefully nurtured by an authentic fellowship and devoted to life changing discipleship.

There is an increasing disconnect between the spiritual experiences people have with God and the spiritual experiences they have in the local church.  People speak of spirituality in terms of a direct experience with God.  They don’t connect those experiences with a church, even if they belong.  They assume no one in the fellowship would be interested or able to help interpret such experiences.  So they separate personal religious experience from congregational life.  They say the church is only interested in their support and attendance, but has no interest in their religious experience.

It is time to reconsider the character of our fellowship, so that it is more than a social.  Authentic fellowship welcomes all religious yearnings?  Authentic fellowship allows personal experiences with God to be brought out into the open.  Authentic fellowship provides space for intimate storytelling and encourages members to share those deep experiences with one another.  Authentic fellowship is nurtured by spiritual leaders who connect those experiences to a life of faith.  Left outside the community, such experiences lead to dysfunctions and pathologies.  We are to pay attention to the variety of spiritual experience that come into our fellowship.  The holy habit of fellowship reconsidered allow for people to bring spiritual experiences into the fellowship so they may be understood.  This enables people will take a leap of faith in their own lives and in there service to others.

Life changing discipleship activates faith.  Peter had at his disposal the words and images of Jesus he had learned when he encountered this lame beggar.  Knowing the faith empowered him to change this man’s life.

Life changing discipleship activates faith when the scriptures and stories of our faith are known and come to life.  The words of the psalms and the stories of Jesus flow throughout the ordinary current of our life together.  When people are grounded and know how to dialogue with the stories of the faith they are more likely to act boldly in their faith.

Once, we could assume “everyone” knew stories of scripture and the heritage of our faith.  If name a chapter in Acts would you know the subject? Yet, our discipleship offerings presume religious literacy.  The way we teach is in need of repair as the levels of biblical and theological comprehension continue to fall.  We need:

-Standards for spiritual leadership.  Spiritual leaders are to be set apart by expectations of spiritual growth, which they’re held accountable.

-An extreme makeover of children and student discipleship offerings.  Our lackadaisical approach is jeopardizing the future of the transmission of the faith to the next generation.

-To create entry points for newcomers, providing process that leads people through conversion experiences.  An outsider will have no desire belong if we do not meet them where they are.

-To support people in life-crises.  People are turning to programs like: AA, Parents without Partners, and others, outside the church.  The congregational menu must address human need or people will find other places that help them deal with the tensions of their lives.

The reconsideration of the holy habit of nurture will cause to address real needs in the context of the new patterns of life.  Authentic fellowship and life changing discipleship stimulates people to act as citizens of the kingdom of God.  The stronger these functions, the more likely the people will be active witnesses in the community.  Effectiveness is measured by the number of people living as if the kingdom of God has already come among them.  This happens when the church is a place where people stories (authentic fellowship) intersect with faith stories (life changing discipleship).

Let me make the call is clear.  We need spiritual leaders who know the story and offer it in such compelling ways, new and old are inspired and informed.  Each one of us is engaged with the scriptures or the stories of our faith weekly.  The holy habit of nurture reconsidered call us to order our life so we are equipping people to act on their faith in serving others as Peter and John did when they encountered the blind beggar at the Gate called Beautiful.  When I send you out inspired by worship, don’t wait till next week to get inspired again.  Seek places of nurture by connecting yourself to an authentic fellowship and devoting yourself to life changing discipleship so you might be a daily witness for Christ in all walks of your life.

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Published in: on October 2, 2011 at 9:51 am  Leave a Comment  

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