by Julie Anne Lytle
[Below is an excerpt from Faith Formation 4.0: Introducing an Ecology of Faith in a Digital Age based on Julie’s concept of story-keeping, story-sharing, and story-sharing.]
Stories are important. They can entertain and educate. They can record information about cultures, time periods, and places. They can communicate understandings, meanings, and significances. They can inspire identity, purpose, and belonging. They can connect individuals and shape them as a community. They hold the memory of who we have been as well as orient and guide who we are becoming. They can cultivate a spirit of corporate responsibility. From a constructivist educator’s perspective, they create our world and worldview.
For Christians, the stories of God’s presence in history are the ground from which religion emerges and the means by which Christian faith continues as faith communities claim their story-keeping, story-sharing, and story-making functions. Story-keeping occurs as faithful people collect and maintain the wisdom of their tradition. This action defines and orients a community’s beliefs and actions. Story-sharing communicates a vision of life with God and invites others into the Christian understanding of it. When defined by The Way, these counter-cultural actions both form disciples and invite others into discipleship. Story-making moves faith into action, putting beliefs into practice, and adding our witness to the Christian story. by interacting with and supporting one another, individuals in a faith community deepen their relationships as they prayerfully engage challenging ideas and issues, gain a vision of life greater than themselves, and go out into the world seeking to create and enact it. The result is that new members and longtime adherents are informed about, formed in, and transformed by faith primarily by their participation in it. By practicing faith, new members and longtime adherents also add to the Christian story, keeping it fresh and alive.
It is important to recognize the shift that occurs in this cycle of story-keeping, story-sharing, and story-making. The content of the stories – information about Christ and the community that follows his teachings – become the foundation of a way of being and of being transformed for future generations. By hearing the Christian message and learning communal mores, all members of the community claim a Christian identity, embody Christian beliefs, and give witness to their faith in a way that, ideally, invites others to join them.
This is a relational process. Disciples share the responsibility – individually and collectively – to pass on Jesus’ message. Having heard the gospel and experienced it through another’s witness, new members embrace the Way – becoming church, and, in turn, sharing it with others. The gospel is not a message simply to be preached, it is a way to live and to inspire others as it is enacted; by living the message, disciples are formed by and become the media by which the gospel is heard. The medium is the message. Evangelization and formation are a circle of conversion through which faith communities proclaim the good news and make Christians.
Are your community’s faith formation efforts to invite and “make” disciples focused on Christ (mission centered) or making denominational members?
Julie Anne Lytle combines academic training in journalism/advertising, theology, and religious education with professional experience as a producer working with all forms of media, and pastoral experience working in congregational, diocesan and university settings. The author of Faith Formation 4.0: Introducing an Ecology of Faith in a Digital Age (2013: Morehouse Publishing) you can join the conversation at her website, Faith Formation 4.0.