The six dimensions of Formation School

Formation School grows character and confidence in the ways in which God gifts us and sends us. Five theme tracks unpack how the Bible equips us to live for God in today’s world, while a sixth dimension – huddles – grounds the teaching and provides mutual support and accountability.

Track 1: God’s story

Understanding and explaining the mission of God

Human beings are creatures in search of a story. We long to know who we are, why we exist, and how life is best lived. We can only answer these questions by seeing how our lives fit into a greater story.

The Bible answers this deep human longing. It teaches us that the true context in which our lives belong is God's own story – his purpose in creation and salvation. This implies that we only live as we are intended to when our lives are conformed to the Great Story: the mission of God himself.

This track follows the mission of God through creation, de-creation (fall), re-creation (redemption) and new creation (the restoration of all things). It challenges us to make this the defining story of our lives. It also opens up some major themes that weave their way through the biblical narrative.

However, it is not enough to simply understand the story and locate ourselves within it. The mission of God is not only personal, it is universal. We cannot grasp it truly without taking to heart the need to communicate it in our words and make it visible in our lives so that others – ultimately people from all nations – may discover it for themselves.

So track 1 does more than teach the story; it will equip you to teach it to others. You will learn how to understand, apply, and teach different parts of the Bible, first to yourself and then to others, exploring in more depth a gospel, a New Testament letter, and a minor prophet. Undergirding the whole track is the deep conviction that the Bible is God’s written word, which is utterly trustworthy and centrally important in the task of disciple-making to which we are called.

Track 2: Our story

Experiencing the blessing of God

The good news is not just a distant memory of something God did 2000 years. Churches are not antiquarian societies which merely discuss ancient texts and historical events. No, we claim that God is the Living God who raised Jesus from the dead and who is active in his world and his church by his Holy Spirit.

The Bible expects that we should know God personally and experience him. Our lives and our leadership in Jesus’s church are meant to be full of testimony about what God is doing now, as well as back then.

Track 2 explores how to encounter God and experience his blessing. Its starting point is God’s promise to bless Abraham so that he could bless others. The foundation for biblical, spiritual leadership is receiving and living in God’s grace, and becoming channels of that grace to others.

Undergirding the track is a conviction that the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to transform our hearts and lives as we get to know God. Track 2 is deeply experiential and concentrates on life-transforming truths about your identity in Christ:

  • justification by faith, righteousness in Christ, and adoption into God’s family
  • experiencing the unmerited grace of God
  • walking in repentance and faith
  • loving God through disappointment, failure and suffering

The track encourages grace-filled rhythms and patterns of life for growing as Christ’s disciples

  • experiencing the Holy Spirit and growing in his gifts
  • growing in worship
  • growing in praying and fasting
  • fighting sin by standing on God’s promises
  • learning to forgive

It is impossible to separate the task of leadership from the character of leaders. Track 2 will help form you as a Christ-exalting, worshipping leader who helps others grow as disciples out of that centre.

Track 3: The church’s story

Experiencing the blessing of God

The UK church in the 21st century needs to see itself as a missionary church. Christians have become a minority group which is marginalised in British society. This compels us to change our perspective from maintaining an institution to becoming a movement on a mission. Many traditional methods and strategies are no longer effective in a post-Christian and post-Christendom context.

The early church developed in a context which was similar to ours in many ways. So we can learn from Scripture how the early Christians ‘turned the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6) and how we can apply these principles into our own situations today.

Track 3 firstly considers the challenges and opportunities of being a missional church. It will equip you to build radical, authentic communities which will both disciple Christians effectively and be salt and light in the world so you can shape and change culture.

During the second term, you will have first-hand experience of reaching people who are not Christians. The group will work together, under guidance, to plan two culturally sensitive outreach events: one geared to reach people on our high street, and the other giving your friends and relatives an opportunity to consider the claims of Jesus.

In the third term, Track 3 reflects on the nature of Christian leadership, and how it differs radically from definitions of leadership within the secular world. You will be given tools to enable you to better understand yourself and the impact you have on others. Finally, we explore how to achieve change and build effective teams.

Track 4: The disciple’s story

Growing disciples who make disciples
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not easy. But it is the life designed by our Creator for our benefit. We are invited to live the kind of life that Jesus lived himself: a life of holiness and love, a full and abundant life, a life we always wanted. This is a life worth living; the only life worth resurrecting. It is a life of following and learning, focused on wholehearted, single-minded devotion to Christ. It is not a life without difficulty and pain but, ultimately, it is deeply satisfying and liberating – a life that makes a real difference.
 
Disciples make disciples. Jesus expects it and churches aspire to it, yet it remains rare to find many people who are fully committed to disciple-making, despite all the current talk about it. Track 4 will help to familiarise you with the biblical terminology and to build convictions about the reproducing life of being a disciple.
 
However, it is much more focused on living a life rather than simply talking a talk. Having laid careful foundations, we will examine in depth how to help others follow Jesus. Within a framework of appreciating discipleship as a journey, we will explore the practical implications of discipling others along a maturing process in four key stages:
  • discipling people who are not- yet Christians
  • discipling spiritual infants
  • discipling spiritual young adults
  • discipling spiritual parents

As we walk with others on this journey, we enjoy the adventure and endure the adversity of taking up our cross to follow Jesus. We experience the unforced rhythms of grace that overflow naturally from the disciple’s life, multiplying into others for the glory of God.

Track 5: The better story

The gospel in today’s world

As well as understanding our identity in Jesus, and our task of making disciples, it is also vital for us to understand the context in which we find ourselves. British society has experienced enormous changes over the last three or four decades, and Christian faith is rapidly being excluded from the public square. How is our task of disciple-making affected by these shifts in culture?

We all know how multicultural and pluralistic the United Kingdom has become. While some welcome people from a huge variety of cultural backgrounds making their home here, others are fearful because of the threat of religious extremism. As a result, the government, corporations, institutions, and individuals insist that the only way we can live peacefully together is by becoming increasingly secular.

If we are to make disciples in this context, we must understand how those we long to reach view the world. What are their beliefs, values, and attitudes? How do they view themselves? How do they make moral decisions? What is really important in life?

Track 5 helps you begin to understand some key aspects of our culture and how the gospel challenges it:

  • the enormous influence of the media on our thinking and attitudes, and how we can respond to it
  • how technology transforms our ways of living and relating, and how we can use it wisely
  • how Christians can participate in an increasingly hostile public square

The track will also equip you to engage with some of the challenging questions which our culture throws up: questions about sexuality, pluralism, science, and suffering.

Huddles

As well as understanding our identity in Jesus, and our task of making disciples, it is also vital for us to understand the context in which we find ourselves. British society has experienced enormous changes over the last three or four decades, and Christian faith is rapidly being excluded from the public square. How is our task of disciple-making affected by these shifts in culture?

We all know how multicultural and pluralistic the United Kingdom has become. While some welcome people from a huge variety of cultural backgrounds making their home here, others are fearful because of the threat of religious extremism. As a result, the government, corporations, institutions, and individuals insist that the only way we can live peacefully together is by becoming increasingly secular.

If we are to make disciples in this context, we must understand how those we long to reach view the world. What are their beliefs, values, and attitudes? How do they view themselves? How do they make moral decisions? What is really important in life?

Track 5 helps you begin to understand some key aspects of our culture and how the gospel challenges it:

  • the enormous influence of the media on our thinking and attitudes, and how we can respond to it
  • how technology transforms our ways of living and relating, and how we can use it wisely
  • how Christians can participate in an increasingly hostile public square

The track will also equip you to engage with some of the challenging questions which our culture throws up: questions about sexuality, pluralism, science, and suffering.

Formation School is a partnership between Above Bar Church, and Living Leadership, as well as a number of churches around the area.

Above Bar Church is a charitable company limited by guarantee. Registered in England and Wales, registration no 6959469. Charity registration no:1131075. Registered office: 69 Above Bar Street, Southampton, SO14 7FE.
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