Commitment: You and Others

December 10th, 2012

You may want to read the first two articles in this series: Teaching for Commitment, Nurturing for Commitment.

Share Your Own Faith

Choose a friend with whom you can talk about your faith. You can learn from each other's stories. Try to share some of your doubts as well as your beliefs and feelings.

In your class or small group share portions of your faith story to illustrate certain points. Once you do this, others will be more open to talking about their faith journeys.

Use Appropriate Language

Too often we invite people to join our group or church without ever getting around to talking with them about their commitment to Jesus Christ. Perhaps one of the reasons for our reluctance is that we do not have a ready vocabulary for doing this. What should you do if someone asks, "What do I have to do to be saved?" Here are some suggestions that may help.

Teachers and leaders need a variety of words or phrases to use in different situations. This is essential for working with persons of different age levels. It is also helpful for working with individuals within a specific age level, since all persons are not at the same place in their faith development.

Choose some words and phrases that seem comfortable for you and appropriate for the person you are talking with. After trying out some of the phrases a few times, you will be more comfortable in talking with your group and with individuals.

Young children model their behaviors after adults who are special and significant to them. You can help them know Jesus as a loving, caring person who they will want to be like. In your teaching you might use phrases such as "being like Jesus," "doing what Jesus taught," and "being a friend of Jesus."

Elementary children need to feel accepted and needed. With this age level you might speak of "following Jesus," "becoming a disciple of Jesus," "giving your heart to God," "accepting God's love which saves us," or 'joining with other Jesus followers."

Youth often question and doubt the faith that has been shared with them through words and actions from others. When this happens, it is an indication that they are searching for a deeper commitment. You will want to help youth see that commitment to Christ is what makes Christianity distinctively different from other religions.

Some commitment phrases to use with youth are "choosing Christ," "giving your life to Christ," "making a commitment to Christ," "following Christ," or "accepting Christ as your personal Savior."

Adults too are at various stages in their faith development. With adults who have not yet made an initial public commitment to Christ, you might try some of the phrases suggested for youth. For those adults who have made a commitment in their childhood or youth, but who have strayed from participation in the community of faith, you might speak of rededication or renewal of their commitment.

Be Sensitive

Show class or small group members that you are interested in their growth in faith. Be a good listener. Make comments or ask questions as appropriate.

If you sense a group member is ready to make a personal commitment to Christ, talk with that person privately. If the person is not ready to pursue the conversation, do not push. When the time is right, the person may return to you because you have shown concern and sensitivity. In the meantime listen, care, love, and pray for that person.

One of the greatest moments as a teacher or spiritual friend is when someone asks how to make a commitment or shares his or her need to make a deeper commitment to God or to being a disciple. It is important to listen to what the person is saying, allow the person to use her or his own words and, at the appropriate time, encourage him or her to make a commitmentment to God in prayer. There is not one formula for this, and people do not need us in order to make this commitment, but our presence at this time in their lives can be a special gift. Sometimes people want someone with them, and our role can be to help them mark their decision that "on this particular day with this person I made a commitment" to follow God, ask Christ into my heart, listen to the Spirit's leading, or begin a life of discipleship. Words are powerful and the opportunity to make a statement of faith with a friend or teacher may be important later on as persons struggle with or doubt their faith.

In the church we nurture persons for commitment through worship, relationships, study, and guidance. Personal commitment to Christ brings change-sometimes sudden, sometimes gradual. Nurture is essential to prepare persons for conversion or change. Nurture is also essential to help persons grow in their faith.

You are called to be a teacher-a spiritual friend and guide to help persons know and accept the power and love of Jesus Christ for their lives. Rely on God, who has called you, and you will find the power and understanding that you need.

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