Thursday, May 19, 2011

faith and relationship

What if we adopted a pattern for youth ministry ~ no, a pattern for all of church life ~ based on Acts 8, the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. No, I'm not interested in castrating young people physically or spiritually. I'm interested in relationship as a model for sharing faith.

I believe that most people are captivated by and interested in matters of faith. But what do we do in church when someone expresses an interest in faith? We (hand them a bible and) smother them with information. We worry about right theology, appropriate behavior in worship. We wonder whether a new participant in our worship life will 'join' the congregation, since once they 'join', we can ask them for financial pledges and they can be on the church council. But right theology, appropriate behavior, congregational membership, budgets and bureaucracies have nothing to do directly with faith.

It seems to me that faith, in fact, comes before theology; that faith comes before membership; that faith comes before commitment. And it seems to me that faith, that amazing and wonderful gift from Holy Spirit, is best nurtured in relationship. The Ethiopian Eunuch was desperate for something, and he was searching scripture to answer his longing. But he was not able to make sense of what G-d was up to outside of relationship.

Instead of hoping that the faith of (young) people will grow when we hand them a bible and fill them full of information, what if we genuinely listened to questions and explored faith together. Perhaps we are uncomfortable with this because most of us lack confidence in our own faith.

I believe, though, that if we explored faith together, in relationship, everyone would benefit. Sure, the faith of the Ethiopian deepened as he entered the waters of his baptism ~ but I have to believe that Philip came away from that encounter (with the living G-d) just as changed, if not more so, than his companion.


* Thanks to Kenda Creasy Dean's writing in Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church for sparking these musings ~ and apologies if anything seems stolen ~ it is my intention to reflect, not to plagarize. *

No comments:

Post a Comment