Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. John 15:4
Everything that we do at Providence Baptist Church is faith formation.
That’s both a bold, and a broad, statement—and I stand behind it. Everything that we do at Providence Baptist Church is, in one way or another, faith formation. There is great power in worshiping together, serving together, learning together, teaching together, playing together, praying together, and simply being together.
After all, Jesus himself tells us in Matthew 18:20 that, whenever two or three of us are gathered in his name, then he is right there with us. Regardless of the specific activity we’re doing at any given moment, the fact that we are doing it together in the presence of Jesus shapes, deepens, and expands our understanding of what it means to be a follower of the risen Christ. Sometimes this happens in dramatic, bolt-of-lightning kind of ways. Sometimes it happens more subtly and gradually—much like water, over time, shapes rock.
The point is, though, that this does indeed happen. When the church obediently lives out its mission as the church, then everything that we do together exerts a formative influence upon our faith. It doesn’t happen exclusively through worship and Bible study. We may not realize it in the moment as we’re hiking in the woods with Providence friends, shooting baskets in the gym, changing diapers in the nursery, chaperoning a student beach retreat, tutoring children in the Nalley Missions Center, serving breakfast in the Crouch Fellowship Hall, or participating in a church conference, but the truth is that our faith is being formed then as well.
I think, to some extent, we’ve always known this to be the case. We never know where, or how, the seeds we sow will sprout and bear good fruit. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Every interaction makes a difference.
The way we’ve traditionally thought about the church’s various ministries, however, does not reflect such a seamless approach to faith formation. Instead, we classify programs by type—as education, missions, music, or activities, for example. We distinguish between events that are “serious” and events that are “fun,” with the implication being that the former are more substantial—and, thus, more faith-formative—than the latter. And, as a result, we end up thinking of the church’s mission and ministry not as a cohesive whole, but, rather, as a collection of programs that may—or may not—have anything to do with each other. That’s not only inaccurate. It’s unfortunate.
Some of you may have already noticed that my colleagues and I have begun talking a lot about faith formation at Providence and how it occurs at different times, and in different ways, and through different means. That’s intentional.
Faith formation at Providence happens on Sunday mornings with classes for all ages, followed by worship. Faith formation at Providence also happens on Wednesday evenings, with a fellowship meal followed by age-appropriate opportunities for learning and engagement. Faith formation at Providence happens throughout the week, everywhere on our campus. It’s what we do. That’s the goal: Faith formation, all the time, in a variety of ways.
Moreover, faith formation at Providence is not just a matter of passively receiving information while sitting in a classroom. When we volunteer to be teachers, caregivers, coaches, singers, or members of our audio/visual worship support team, our faith is being formed in profound ways. For example, I was talking to a children’s teacher just last week who shared with me how explaining and relating the Bible to young people has helped his own faith to become stronger and more grounded. When we use our gifts to serve, God teaches us lessons that can only be gained through experience.
Most of all, faith formation at Providence—whenever it happens, however it happens—really comes down to making space in our lives, and in our church, for us to abide with Jesus as he abides with us. It’s essential that we do this, Jesus tells us, for we cannot bear good fruit by ourselves. We need Jesus. We need one another. We need the Holy Spirit to work on us, consistently and creatively, as much—and as often—as possible.
And that, friends, is why everything we do at Providence is faith formation. May the peace of Christ be with you!