It should come as no surprise to anyone who is at all paying attention to the culture around us that we can no longer assume that the people we interact with subscribe to a Judeo/Christian worldview. In fact, an increasing percentage of the populace is hostile to such a view.
This begs the question of church leaders, “what are you doing to get your people grounded in the Christian faith?”
I believe that good preaching does part of the job, but assuming that the average sermon is 30 minutes and the average parishioner attends 50 service per year (I like easy math), that is 25 hours per year of instruction that may or may not address the issues that the parishioner struggles with.
Highly motivated people will find web sites, podcasts or other materials that will address the questions and concerns they have. They may even take classes or pursue a degree to become better trained to understand what they believe and why they believe it. But what about the ones that are not so self motivated or who don’t know where to turn?
I know that some denominations have formalized catechetical training. I have never been part of a group that had such training but I wonder if the nature of the catechism is such that it addresses or helps people understand and respond to the challenges to the Christian worldview that are on the rise.
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach that will work in every church context, but I thought I would catalog some ideas on how to go about getting people grounded in the faith. Here are some ideas in no particular order:
- Develop and teach a “Bible 101” or foundations class. When you do this, I would encourage you to distinguish between the essential doctrines of Christianity and the non-essential issues. There is nothing wrong with having denominational distinctiveness as long as it is understood that not all true believers agree on non-essentials. To give an exchatological interpretation the same importance as the deity of Christ does damage to the Church Universal.
- Along the same lines, avoid drawing unnecessary lines in the sand on non-essential issues. For example, while I believe in a literal six day creation, I refuse to argue with those who believe in a longer time frame. If we can agree on God as the agent of creation, that is good enough for me.
- Provide a means of getting questions answered. This could be through a Sunday School class geared toward apologetics, occasional Q & A sessions with the pastoral staff or an email address where questions can be sent in and answered. Help people find the answers they need.
- Train small group leaders and Sunday school teachers in how to handle Biblical and world view questions. While “I have to ask the Pastor” may be an appropriate response if the leader does not know the answer, it would be so much better if the question could be handled effectively (and correctly) on the spot.
- Bring in seminar speakers who are trained to address the issues of the day. There are several seminaries that are training Christian apologists who would be able to help you find a suitable speaker.
- Model grace to those who have questions or struggle in understanding and belief. Look at how Jesus handled those who raised questions and respond in a similar fashion.
- Don’t ignore the young people in your church. They have the same questions and are often more honest about their struggles. Perhaps if we did a better job of answering their questions at a young age, fewer of them would leave the church in their college years.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:11-12 that it is the job of church leaders to equip those in their charge to minister to the people around them. Part of this equipping is to get them grounded in their understanding of the Christian faith and how it speaks to the issues of the day.
Leaders need to periodically gauge how well they are doing with regard to equipping their people. If you find that improvement can be made, try something new. Use one of the ideas above or listen to the ideas of your people. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
If you have other ideas, I would appreciate if you would share them in the comment section below.