Exploring the Christian Faith

Who is a Christian?

 

What about the Church?

A Christian is someone who has decided to follow Jesus. Another name for a follower of Jesus is a ‘disciple’ or ‘apprentice’. The first disciples answered a call from Jesus to follow him and then learnt from him rather like an apprenticeship might be trained today.

Jesus continues to call people to follow him and as they answer his call they begin a lifelong journey of discipleship. The vocation of every Christian is to become more like Jesus himself.

Discipleship will involve:

  • Bible reading and study
  • Prayer
  • Living according to God’s Way:
    • Loving and serving other people
    • Caring for the environment
  • Joining a church

Jesus mixed with all sorts of people and gained a reputation for befriending those on the fringes of his society. Rather than stressing the need for status or power he demonstrated the importance of serving people. He taught that the most important priority is to love God and to love others regardless of their circumstances, beliefs or culture – he told a well known story about a Good Samaritan to illustrate that our neighbour is not someone that lives next door, but could be absolutely anyone.

Following the Way of Jesus is challenging and not easy. Jesus taught about living life according to the Way of God (The Kingdom of God/Heaven). This means living in such a way as to be a good and positive influence in the world.

What it means to be a Christian – follow this link: www.cofe.anglican.org/faith/christian

Try a local Alpha course – for details follow this link: www.alpha.org/find-a-course

Further Reading: try a book from the attached Reading List (see below)

Canterbury Diocese (Church of England) run Deepening Discipleship courses for Christians who want to grow deeper in their faith.  For more details contact Nigel.

 

 Despite over 70% of the population saying they are Christian, church attendance figures do not match this proportion.  Many people only go to church to attend a baptism (christening), wedding or funeral.

The word ‘church’ may mean different things to different people.  For some they will associate the word with a building, others will associate it with a group of people.

According to Robert Warren in The Healthy Churches Handbook, a mental model of church (perhaps even a stereotype) is:

Church = Building + Priest + Sunday services

But he suggests that it should be:

Church = Community + Faith + Action

Church is essentially a community of people drawn together by faith in and encounter with Jesus Christ as Lord, which leads them to take action in the whole of life, living by a different set of values from what would otherwise have been the case.  This living will involve a wide range of ‘actions’ including both attitudes (such as listening or generosity) and actions (service, confrontation or care).

Another way of putting these three words (community, faith, action) is to describe the church as an engaging faith community.  Engaging not just in the sense of being attractive, but rather, primarily, as involved with the world around us, following after the pattern of the incarnation.

The Healthy Churches’ Handbook pages 84f

Here is a definition based on a quote from Bishop Tom Wright:

Church is a community of Jesus’ followers where others can explore what following Jesus means and find help, encouragement and wisdom.

At Cross-Links Dover these last two definitions sum up the sort of church we are striving to be.

We may not be there yet – maybe you’d like to journey with us?

Recommended Reading List

Following Jesus/Being a Christian

Velvet Elvis – Repainting the Christian Faith, Rob Bell, Zondervan, 2005.  Taking a fresh look at following Jesus.

Sex God – Exploring the endless connections between sexuality and spirituality, Rob Bell, Zondervan, 2007.  A great follow up read to Velvet Elvis.

The Lost Message of Jesus, Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, Zondervan, 2003.  A good book that helps to rediscover and refocus on the true message of Jesus.

The Secret Message of Jesus, Brian D. McLaren, Thomas Nelson, 2006.  The sub title is ‘uncovering the truth that could change everything’; this is an insightful book that complements Steve Chalke’s book of a similar name.

Apprentice, Steve Chalke with Joanna Wyld, Zondervan, 2009.  Sub-tiled ‘walking the way of Christ’; an interesting and challenging book.

A New Kind of Christianity, Brian D. McLaren, Hodder & Stoughton, 2010.  Sub-titled ‘ten questions that are transforming the faith’; this is a challenging book that tackles key questions like: is God violent?  Who is Jesus? What is the Good News? Addressing sexuality?  What about other religions?  Well worth reading.

Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren, Zondervan, 2002.  A series of daily readings lasting 40 days; it is thought provoking and challenging.  This book has been used for group study in many churches.

Beginning Again, John Pritchard, SPCK, 2000.  A really practical and helpful book to guide you if you are wanting a new start on your Christian journey or starting out for the first time.

How to Pray, John Pritchard, SPCK, 2002.  A practical handbook on prayer.

Jesus

The Life, a Portrait of Jesus, J. John and Chris Walley, Authentic, 2003.  A straight talking portrait of Jesus based on the gospels.

Bibles

There are all sorts of translations available, try to find one that suits you, here are a few:

New International Version (NIV)

Good News Bible (Todays English Version (TEV))

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Living Translation (NLT)

The Message (Msg)

Texts are also available online too.  Just try your search engine...


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