Monday, March 14, 2016

Why Spiritual Formation?

landscape, nature, sky

Ministry and leadership flow out of being.  What we do and the manner in which we do it, flow out of who we are.  More than just what we know, our leadership and influence flows out of the character that has been formed by our lives.  Spiritual formation is the active process that attends to the nature and quality of our souls.

All human beings have been formed. The question is, in what manner and to what end?  All of one's experiences and choices give shape to one's spirit, that is to the fundamental aspect of all human beings.  Therefore, "spiritual formation" is the specific process of shaping our spirit such that it conforms to the Spirit of Christ.

My former professor, the late Dallas Willard shares some helpful definitions in his works.  "Spiritual formation in Christ is the process whereby the inmost being of the individual (the heart, will, or spirit) takes on the quality or character of Jesus himself." (Dallas Willard, The Great Omission).  

"Spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ the degree to which spiritual formation in Christ is successful, the inner life of the individual becomes a natural expression or outflow of the character and teachings of Jesus." (Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart)

As I pursue the classic spiritual disciplines (silence, solitude, worship, prayer, bible study, scripture memorization, service--to name a few), I willingly enter a space for God to do His shaping work in my life.  I move into a place where God both scrubs and builds.  I learn and unlearn.  I am slowly and intentionally remade.   I am being transformed.  As the Spirit of God works in my life through these bodily habits, I become more loving, more full of joy, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (Gal 5:22-23).  

And when I lead and influence others, there is more of Jesus and less of me in the mix.  That is a good thing.  

  • What would it be like if followers of Jesus really started to resemble Jesus in their daily lives?
  • What would happen if our churches and ministries were led by people who were actively seeking God's reforming work in their lives?
  • What would the Church look like if its constituents were on a journey to truly become more like Jesus?
  • What would our communities be like if followers of Jesus lived in the world with souls that were shaped like Jesus?

Paul said to his protege Timothy: "Train yourself in godliness, for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (I Tim 4:7)

May your journey with Jesus produce much fruit!