Thursday, July 11, 2024

Spiritual Formation Happens in Connection to Community

                                            (Redeemer kids)

Spiritual formation is the shaping of the human heart into Jesus-likeness. Paul's prayer in Galatians 4:19 expresses this: 

My dear children, I feel the pains of birth upon me again, and I will continue in labor for you until the Anointed One is formed completely in you. (The Voice)

We see this idea in Romans 12:1-2, where the word "transformed" is from the Greek word metamorphe. Meta-morphe is a "change of form." It is like a caterpillar changing into a butterly, only more profound (because, I think, it involves changing of essential, not merely contingent, attributes).

Offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship. Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.

Dallas Willard writes: “Spiritual formation can be understood as the process by which true Christlikeness is established in the very depths of our being. Spiritual formation” is “a term for those processes through which people are inwardly transformed in such a way that the personality and deeds of Jesus Christ naturally flow out from them when and wherever they are. When we talk about spiritual formation we are talking about framing a progression of life in which people come to actually do all things that Jesus taught. So we are obviously going for the heart. We are aiming for change of the inner person, where what we do originates." 
 Jeffrey Greenman - "Spiritual formation is our continuing response to the reality of God's grace shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith, for the sake of the world."
- Jeffrey Greenman, Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective, p. 24 

Spiritual formation into Jesus-likeness happens as we are connected to community. Henri Nouwen helps me here. He writes, 

"Spiritual formation requires taking not only the inward journey to the heart, but also the outward journey from the heart to community and ministry. Christian spirituality is essentially communal. Spiritual formation is formation in community. One’s personal prayer life can never be understood if it is separated from community life. Prayer in the spiritual life leads to community, and community to prayer. In community we learn what it means to confess our weakness and to forgive each other. In community we discover our own woundedness, but also a place of healing. In community we learn true humility. Without community, we become individualistic and egocentric. Therefore, spiritual formation always includes formation to life in community." (Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the SpiritKindle Locations 309-315)