I love Wikipedia. Someone started a "Christian alternative" to Wikipedia, because they thought it was "too liberal", but that completely ignores the fact that they could themselves edit any Wikipedia article that was "too liberal" to make it less biased.
Anyway, there is a good start to a treatment of Christian Spiritual Formation on Wikipedia, in their article Spiritual formation. I'd applaud anyone who could flesh it out effectively.
My life theme seems to be "figuring out how it all works", and that pragmatism and curiosity extend to Spiritual Formation. There is evidence medically that prayer and meditation make a real physical change in brain wiring and chemistry. There is definite anecdotal support for personal spiritual formation changing communities. And there is historical support for the idea that communities -- such as the Quakers -- who sought deliberate practice of the spiritual disciplines brought change on three planes: individual, person-to-person, and in community -- large and small communities.
As I read through Jesus' words in all 4 gospels about THE KINGDOM and about ABIDING in Him and about AGAPE of one's neighbor and one's brother being the evidence of our love for Jesus, it is obvious to me that the first goal of Christian spiritual formation is to be so highly connected to Jesus and to my brother and to my neighbor that I prioritize their desires and concerns as highly as I prioritize my own. Through this connectedness God makes me into the person He desires me to be, and God uses me in the ways that most satisfy my yearning for the significance that He created me to seek, as I play my role in His Kingdom. This goal results in knowing and loving the real individuals who come my way each day, and in becoming an active force behind a community of Christians who reach out deliberately to meet the needs of a hurting world.
The old "can Jesus be Savior if He isn't Lord" and the old "social Gospel vs personal salvation" break down in the face of a true study of scripture and a commitment to walking each day after the Jesus I encounter there. "Salvation" is no less than His Kingdom Come through me, both in personal devotion to a Jesus I know and accept as my master, and in active service of all those whom I see and even all those whom I can't see but whom I know of through our world-wide communication in these days of a global village.
It isn't complicated at all. I decide to follow Jesus. I decide to join with other followers of Jesus in a local community of faith that fits me. I practice the disciplines -- private, public, and communal -- that are listed so many places (like in that Wikipedia article above) and that are taught by Jesus in scripture. And He does the rest. I just keep showing up each moment, each day, and train my hands and heart for Him as He acts as personal trainer in the "gym" that is my house, or the grocery store, or work, or school, or church, or my car, or the local Starbucks.
Whether I am committed to following Him, or whether I am secretly or openly committed to doing my own thing or to pleasing someone else . . . I am being formed each day. Who I will be tomorrow and next year and for eternity is set by the trajectory I choose this moment by my next action.
Spiritual formation happens, like it or not. I become more and more like the person God imagines and desires for me to be, or I become more and more set in all the character defects that cause pain to me and pain to others. I get to choose my passions, and then my passions create my character.
The only change I can control happens this moment . . . right here, right now. Do I want to be the person I am shown to be by my thoughts, actions, and interactions in the last 24 hours? What am I doing this minute? Is it what Jesus is asking me to do this minute?
"Spiritual Formation" and "Stewardship" and "Obedience" all boil down to learning to follow Him as closely as my boys followed me when they were tiny. He isn't trying to teach me to grow up and do it without His constant presence and instruction, as we try to teach our growing children increasing independence and self-sufficiency. He is trying to teach me constant intimacy and constant connection and constant love expressed in immediate action.
As I follow Him, I grow in character and wisdom and in discipline and effectiveness . . . but not in independence!
As I follow Him, I grow in my inter-dependence with those other followers of Him that are in my life today, and I grow in my complete dependence upon the Triune God. This is evident from the words of Jesus and in the words of Paul, and is full of joy and peace!
Maria, I came across your blog looking around on the net for what people were saying about spiritual formation, and I'm actually from Orange CA., but living in Scotland. Crazy.
Anyway, based on your interest in spiritual formation, I was wondering if you would check out a website entirely devoted to it, at www.metamorpha.com?
There are a ton of resources from articles, to video, to audio from Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, etc. Anyway, I wish you well on your journey! Blessings, kyle
Kyle, I registered on your site and watched the video by Foster, and took a quick look to see what else was available. It looks worth more time later. Blessings on your on-line ministry!
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