St. James is participating in the PC(USA)’s Vital Congregations Initiative in 2020-21. In his Pulse articles, Pastor Seth will be sharing a little about each of the 7 Marks of Vitality from the initiative in hopes of unpacking and exploring the concepts for our congregation. This month, we begin with Lifelong Discipleship Formation.

Throughout the Scriptures, the image of the journey is commonly used to illuminate the path we walk with God in our lives. The Hebrew people, journeying out of Egypt to the Promised Land. The missionary journeys of the Apostles, spreading the Good News around the Mediterranean region. The Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, the life-changing revelation of Jesus that sets Paul on another path altogether. 

We recognize that our lives have a sense of journey to them. We talk about the road we’re on, about how we share the adventure together with fellow sojourners. This is a perfect way for us to think about Lifelong Discipleship Formation. At its core, the concept is that we are a people who are being formed along the way of Jesus, step by step, from birth to death, from point to point of awakening and deepening in our faith together. 

This is a clear mark of vitality and health in a church context in how a church is able to integrate and form people in their faith in various stages of life. How my 5-year-old son needs is formed and learns is different from how I am as a 37-year-old. And we want to offer ways to come into contact with the stories and practices of Jesus for both 5-year-olds and 37-year-olds and 89-year-olds. The journey doesn’t end when we discover the love of Jesus — truly, for us who have discovered it, it is the beginning of something greater than we could imagine.

At St. James, we try to prioritize Lifelong Discipleship Formation through the ways we offer Sunday school classes and book studies; through Sunday worship, with forms of worship that connect to a variety of tastes and developmental needs. We prioritize this formation by asking questions of how to best serve our growing children and youth programs: What do these younger members need and how can we support them? And we prioritize it by making sure all people feel welcome to belong, ask questions, and wrestle with their faith, at whatever stage they find themselves. None of what we do is perfect and we have plenty of room to grow, which is what is exciting about engaging in this process of exploring congregational vitality together. 

One of the benefits of having a multi-generational congregation is that our faith journey can be passed on. On a journey, it is helpful to walk alongside someone who has been traveling for a while, someone who knows the terrain and can spot dangers, as well as point to the vistas that a less-experienced traveler may miss. When we share our faith journey with one another, we help each other along. You may not have the same questions as you did when you were 37, but how might you share the wisdom of moving through that part of the journey with someone my age? We have such an opportunity to help each other along the way, to help form those who are coming up after us. We have the chance to pass our faith on, as a gift. 

How do you witness the Mark of Vitality: Lifelong Discipleship Formation at St. James? What are some of the ways you have been influenced by fellow sojourners? Who has passed on the faith to you and who are you passing it on to now? I would love to hear some stories from you. Email me at pastor@saintjamespres.org to share!

Next month, look for my thoughts on the second Mark of Vitality: Intentional Authentic Evangelism!

Grace and peace,

Pastor Seth

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