How does faith develop into action? That’s a complicated question, but sometimes we follow patterns.
Calling can be thoughts, emotions, and other responses to our environment. In the Bible, people hear God calling through dreams, spoken and written words, and signs. Some calls are to action; others to repentance; still others to prayer. Calling may be in response to feeling content with current affairs; others may come from agitation.
Engagement with God follows calling. Engagement is reading scripture and actively learning about what calls us. When we review the history of the church, we’ll normally find parallel issues to our own day and learn from the past.
Spiritual practice is expressed through disciplines including prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, retreat, tithing and journaling. Practice is how concepts and emotions are processed into coherent thoughts and translated into plans.
Mission emanates from calling, engagement, and spiritual practice. Mission is sustained by deliberate attention to God’s continuous call, time spent in the Bible, learning about the intricacies of the workings of the world, and developing plans to meet current challenges.
Does faith becoming action always follow a chronological order? Of course not! God meets us where we are and invites us to the next place.
Here are scenarios of how this could work.
Mission beginning with Calling:
A woman is concerned about the status of race relations in America. She expresses her concerns, which resonate with others. She convenes a bible study, where they commit to at least six meetings to read the Gospel of Matthew through the lens of racial tension and reconciliation. The group reads a book recommended by a community organizer and attends a forum on race relations. They meet with a pastor in an inner city congregation. A joint event between the inner city church and Faith Church produces working relationships; members of Faith Church are invited to a job training ministry organized by the inner city church, where they learn of a need for mentors. The group requests a mission grant to organize and train mentors for the program.
Mission beginning with Engagement:
A Bible study group is reading Psalms. Some members of the group are disturbed by the vitriolic tone in political dialogue. The language of lament and desire for revenge in some Psalms seems oddly familiar to members of the group. After prayer and conversation, the group hosts an event at church called, “Conversation Covenants—how do we disagree without being disagreeable?” The event features a dialogue about a controversial topic. All participants are asked to read the same Psalm before, during, and after the conversation to ground the discussion in prayer. The event generates future gatherings. Participants apply the concepts in family gatherings.
Engagement stemming from Mission:
After wildfires devastate parts of Northern California, a group from Faith Church spends a day assisting with clean up and repair of homes. On the way back to Cameron Park, a member of Faith Church says, “How can God allow something like this to happen?” Discussion follows. The car riders form a small group to read Biblical texts that deal with disaster. The group commits to pray for each other and returns to the disaster area with new resolve.