Marking faith milestones is one way to pause and reflect on God’s work in our lives.

I made profession of faith when I was 16 years old at my home church in Midland Park, N.J. Lots of men, one of them my father, were sitting in chairs against the wall of a large room as I sat there answering a series of questions. I don’t remember many specifics about the questions, but I do know that the pastor asked about my personal faith and a bunch of questions about doctrine. It’s not quite fair to call it a “grilling,” but it also wasn’t just a conversation.

In recent years, profession of faith “interviews” have focused more on personal faith rather than on doctrine. That’s probably a good change. But as I reflect on my own experience, followed by standing up in church and saying “I do” when the time came, I wonder what my profession of faith actually represented for me. It sticks in my memory as an important event, partly because I was proclaiming my faith but also because doing so gave me access to the Lord’s Table. Soon afterward, I was also invited to join a church committee, teaching me early that one of the hallmarks of the church is committee work.

Now that the CRC has separated profession of faith from access to the Table, many people have wondered about the purpose of this faith milestone. With that in mind, here are some thoughts about the additional blessings that come to us by way of profession of faith.

You make a public commitment. Making a public commitment is an important step toward  accepting that my identity is found in being baptized into the family of God. Even though I always knew Midland Park was “my church,” it became more real to me when I stood up and said so.

You celebrate with your congregation. Celebrating milestone moments like this with a congregation gives everyone an opportunity to reflect on God’s faithfulness in our lives and in those of the people around us.

You witness to others. Even though I did not make any sort of verbal statement other than “I do,” I was saying that I accepted the promises made to me at my baptism. I knew that others would look at my actions, listen to my words, and expect them to glorify Jesus.

You learn. I continued to learn what it means to be a member of the church. Much of this learning happened before I made profession of faith, but afterward my church continued to invest in me, teaching me what it means to be a young Christian adult.

You serve. In addition to raking leaves and doing other things as a member of the youth group, being placed on a committee was a way for the church to show that they valued my gifts.

Seeing profession of faith merely as a gateway to the Lord’s Table misses many of the blessings that accompany this important milestone. As we rethink its place in our congregations, let’s find ways for young people to receive these other blessings. (See sidebar Toolkit.)

Marking faith milestones in the lives of congregants young and old is one way to pause and reflect on God’s work in our lives. Giving young people lots of opportunities to participate actively in worship will allow them to feel a sense of truly belonging to the congregation and the larger church of Christ—and encourage them to make ongoing professions of faith.

 

Toolkit

For ideas on how your church can encourage people to profess their faith, create a welcoming profession of faith process, celebrate profession of faith creatively in worship, and more, check out the Professing Our Faith toolkit atcrcna.org/FaithFormation/toolkits.

Online Discussion Questions

  1. What do you remember about your profession of faith? How was it significant to you?
  2. How important is it to make a public commitment of one’s faith? How does it help your faith grow?
  3. What are some ways to encourage our youth to make a profession of faith?
  4. What other milestones of faith can we identify, encourage, and celebrate with our young Christians?

About the Author

Robert J. Keeley is professor of education at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.