One of my favorite responsibilities as a pastor is leading an annual Confirmation class. In my faith tradition, confirmation is a time when a personal decision is made to confirm the vows of one’s baptism. Students join together to explore our faith story as told in the Old and New Testaments, through basic theology, in United Methodist traditions, and the vows one is invited to make on Pentecost.
Confirmation is very often the first opportunity for a student to make a public affirmation of faith, when they claim the faith of their church as their own. On that Sunday, the confirmand is taking responsibility for living as a member of the body of Christ and for fulfilling God’s purposes, as well as joining in the membership of our congregation: supporting its mission and ministry through prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. Confirmation is not simply a “rite of passage,” or a class to complete. It is a step in a lifelong journey of pursuing the heights and depths of God’s love, as well as making a vow to live in relationship with God for the rest of one’s life!
What I enjoy most about my time with these students each year is the conversations we have about their faith journeys. I love sharing with them stories of the great matriarchs and patriarchs of our faith and asking them to consider how God is calling them—where God is calling them.
A few years ago, I began to hear church leadership use the language of a “culture of call,” where within each small group, ministry team, or Sunday school class we could provoke the prophetic imagination in hopes more people would listen to the still small voice calling them to love and serve, perhaps even vocationally.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu writes, “Times change and situations change, but there is still a great need for prophets, for God’s ambassadors, to stand up and be counted.” With the Archbishop, I ask each confirmation class, “Who will dare to be Paul the Apostle today? Or Dorothy Day? Or the Francis of Assisi of our time?” “Who will see injustices of the world and respond like Bonhoeffer or Oscar Romero?” “Who will challenge the status quo, shake the thousands of comfortable Christians out from ‘Netflix and Chill’ on the sectional, and into the community to live like Jesus? Who will stir us to love and good deeds, not simply to affirm the classic tenets of our faith?”
Each class of confirmands reminds me of God’s work through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit: to raise up new leaders who will preach with boldness the gospel truth. Do you know someone you suspect God is preparing? Does someone from your workplace, gym or favorite coffeehouse jump into your mind when you ponder Christian examples, those who shine with the light of Christ? Readers, I invite you to join us in work of stirring the Spirit and tell someone how you see God at work through them. Affirm outwardly what God may be cultivating in the quiet of their hearts. Be outspoken, cheer them on, and pray for their discernment.
Friends, you can be part of God’s calling a new leader and God’s forming a new prophet. You can be part of God’s work redeeming the world and freeing future generations from slavery to sin and darkness, simply by affirming where you already see the power of love transforming lives. Somewhere out there, someone you know is searching their heart for a faithful next step in living like Christ. Your words of encouragement may spur them to say with Isaiah, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”