Saturday, March 11, 2006

spiritual formation

I preaching tomorrow from Genesis 28 - Jacob's dream at Bethel.

Here some rambling thoughts that have been bouncing around inside my head this last few days. Some of this is based on the above text. Some is a larger reflection of some things I'm thinking about. As I say it's rambling...

Part of this text is about: dreaming God's dreams... dreaming dreams of your own!
I think this is an important truth for the church to remember. How often do we attempt to replicate in our context the dreams Jesus has given to another and then wonder why the effort fails. Don’t replicate the dreams given to others, seek from Jesus dreams of your own.

I’ve convinced that our misguided belief that life change can come through proper knowledge acquired through education has failed to produce the kind of radical commitment to life in harmony with God in the way of Jesus that we are called to.

At times, I'm not sure there a direct relationship (or any relationship) between right knowledge and a radical commitment to the life Jesus calls us to. Has our knowledge-based spiritual formation model brought about dramatic life change? I'm not convinced that most of discipleship programs are doing the job (the fact that we call them programs is part of the problem!)

The question is not, “Do people like our church?” but “Is there any real formation happening?” So what questions should we be asking in the context of the local church?

In learning a new language, language acquisition through immersion is by far the most successful means of learning. So it is with Christian faith. Community as a means of spiritual formation immerses people in the Christian way of living so that they learn how to be Christian in a life-long process of discovery and change.

So how do we develop the kind of community where we can grow in being spiritualy formed? How much easier it is for us to develop, learn, and do when we are immersed in a community of Jesus followers who have committed to the radical life Jesus calls us to. How I long for such a community!

However, in my experience, many Christians find that their fellow congregants play no more crucial a role in their daily lives than the people they walk past in the grocery store. They share a common experience from time to time (60-90 minutes a week for most) and receive services from the same organization, but little else. And then complain they don't feel connected. We need to look for ways to make our faith community a place (and a people) where we become involved in one another’s lives in intimate, meaningful, transformative ways. Sacry words for some - and yet I don't think that real spiritual formation will take place apart from this.

So what actions can we take to make our community of faith a place where this can actually happen? I don't think that the "modern" approach of looking over our community to decide whether we have the “right” emphasis, core values, vision or programs to fit is the best one. Rather, we need to understand that each person who comes to our community has contributions and involvements that will help us be more life-giving.

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