Understanding the Dynamics of Faith

By Keith A. Mundy, March 15, 2010

If stewardship is really a faith issue, how do we understand the dynamics of faith? How many people were in worship with you last Sunday? Did they all hear the same sermon? Yes, everyone probably heard the same sermon, but it was probably interpreted or understood differently by each person. Why? While this may be attributed to different educational background and life experiences, it may best be explained by the different places each person is in their faith journey.

In the book Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith, Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich talk about six stages. These range from Recognition of God to the Life of Love. Perhaps more important than the specific titles and description of the stages is understanding dynamics of faith as each person moves along in their journey. After all, since stewardship is a spiritual issue, and not a financial one, it is more important to understand the dynamics of faith than the calculations of a household balance sheet. Here are some insights into understanding the dynamics of faith:

  1. There is a natural God-given propensity for faithful people to see God’s will in their life in an ever deepening way.
  2. The stages are fluid. Each person moves back and forth, often depending on individual life circumstances.
  3. It is possible to experience more than one stage at one time.
  4. No one stage is any better than another. Each builds developmentally on the previous experience.
  5. Each person will identify with some characteristics in all the stages at various times in life.
  6. Each person has a “home stage” where we operate most of the time and which best characterizes our life of faith at a specific time in life.
  7. At times it may be difficult to identify your present stage because you are in transition from one stage to another.
  8. It is often difficult for a person to fully comprehend the actual day-to-day existence of people whose present stage is two or more stages apart from their present stage.
  9. People often get stuck at a particular place in a particular stage because it is more comfortable to stay where you are than it is to move. A person may not think they are stuck, but to some others it may be evident. When a person is stuck, one is not longer growing in faith. Sometimes getting stuck occurs from the fear of facing the unknown. At other times being stuck may occur because of personal or work crises out of our control. Not all unhealthy, negative, hurtful or selfish behaviors are caused by being stuck.
  10. If a person lets a change or crisis touch them, and embraces it as difficult as it is, the person is more likely to grow and move eventually to another stage.
  11. It is often easy to mislead a person into thinking they can move themselves to the next stage simply by doing specific actions or tasks, talking with the right people or setting their mind to it. This is not the case. Moving from one stage to the next takes time and involves bringing a personal response in sync with God’s grace in our life. God does not make us move. God’s grace allows us to move.
  12. Can moving from one stage to another be done independently? Most often not. Each move frequently takes place in conjunction with a faith community, friends, support group, pastor or spiritual counselor. Moving from one stage to another always causes confusion. This can be both exhilarating and exhausting. Moving between stages can bring loneliness, mistrust and fear. It can also inspire love, caring and joy. All of this means transformation is occurring.
  13. The impetus for movement between stages is frequently an event or experience in our lives over which we have little control. These would include: a health crisis, change in relationships, a teacher, models of others to emulate, responding to other’s needs, experiencing God in a new way and the death of a close friend.
  14. A key trait of moving from stage to stage is a willingness to let go. We let go to God. This is a step in faith.

These points may raise many questions. It is probably easiest to start by considering how your life experience connects with one or more of these points. This is a great small group activity. It can begin with your Stewardship Committee or Team. First identify two or three points that you have found to be true in life. Share these with the person sitting next to you. Then, as a group talk about which points were mentioned most often. How do these times in life provide a way to help others grow in their faith? How can these faith stories be shared most effectively in your congregation? This is a starting point to understanding the dynamics of faith.

About the Author

Keith Mundy is assistant director for Stewardship, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This essay is one of the Stewardship Now items freely available for use in bulletins, newsletters, etc. See Keith A. Mundy's website.

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