Spiritual Formation as a Disruptive and Dynamic Journey!
God’s Kingdom has come (already begun) with the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ. This is an indisputable biblical fact.
It’s also true that his kingdom rule continues to be contested! The powers that once ran and sought to ruin his good world through sin and shame continue to exert notable force.
Even as the often slow but certain Kingdom-coming continues to make its presence known!
These two realities
- That God’s reordered rule in and through His son, our Messiah, has already begun, and
- That the powers and principalities of this present age continue to resist,
have real-time consequences in this life.
A lingering consequence of these two truths is that spiritual formation is often more like a disruptive and dynamic journey, rather than a linear and progressive trajectory.
Lasting Change Demands Ongoing Disruption
As I look back on the past eight years of Pillar’s life, I realize that a disruptive and dynamic journey defines much of our ministry development.
In today’s “I am just going to fit Jesus around the edges of my life” discipleship culture, the idea that my life must be disrupted before I can experience new life is simply untenable.
Yet, the premise of spiritual formation is that lasting change (what we all hope is possible) requires ongoing disruption.
Think of your life in terms of layers of soil. Through the years, you add layer upon layer of soil that becomes the foundation of your life. These layers may be layers of achievement, accomplishment, significance, sex, education, survival, etc.
Each layer was at one time crucial for you to get where you are today.
Life: Year after Year of Caked-on Mud
Consider, for example, a layer like survival. If you were raised in an environment where your security was always in question, then you likely developed survival instincts that protected you from harm and helped you make it through those harrowing years.
As you age, you then add another layer. Something like the layer of accomplishment. Years of your life have now been spent (at the very least) building layer after layer of both survival and achievement.
Perhaps even decades of attempting to achieve a certain status, or conversely, failing to achieve a certain status. This sense of survive and accomplish become multiple layers in the soil of your life.
These layers now comprise the landscape of your world; primarily your interior world (which is always the place/realm from which life is lived).
Then one day you discover that Jesus is King and He loves you. He invites you to join Him in His great work and He promises to empower you for this great work.
He plants his seed (His spirit) in the soil of your soul.
You find, however, that in order for the seed to take root, the hardened layers built to this point of your life must be broken up. Further, you find that there are more layers than you care, or are even able, to admit.
This is where disruption first occurs!
“Seed” of Christ’s Spirit Planted in the Soil of Our Soul
This is what I mean by a disruptive journey.
Lasting change requires ongoing disruption because the seed of Christ is always rooting more deeply into our soul. On a side note, this reality also hinges upon how you first heard the Gospel or the Gospel that was delivered to you.
For example, if you were exposed to a “Jesus who came to begin a religion of personal-piety and rescue,” then disruption is the last thing you expect and the reality to which you’re most resistant.
Indeed, you likely fall into the category of “I just want to fit Jesus in around the edges of my life and take him with me.”
This religious piety and personal rescue Gospel is a truncated (partial, even false) Gospel. It’s one that I will deal with in later posts when I reflect on how the disruptive and dynamic journey of Spirit Formation reframes the Gospel.
The reframe then becomes a more fully biblical and beautiful representation of what God had in mind all along.
The Dynamic Life of a Bunch of Radical Followers
By dynamic, I mean a journey that is filled with the topsy-turvy experience of trying to stay afloat at sea. This topsy-turvy experience is a stark contrast to the progressive experience of moving from point “A” to point “B.”
This is the type of dynamic formation we meet face to face in the Gospels. When Jesus enters the scene he proclaims, “Hey, I am in charge, follow me.” His disciples, excited for the long-awaited Messiah, follow Him.
They leave everything but they constantly try to pull him into their old frame. The earliest followers want a power-broker to come in and take over immediately.
They want a fighter-warrior God to deliver them. Jesus brings deliverance, but he does so in the most unexpected of ways: by love and sacrifice.
As the sacrificial love of Christ becomes more real, the disciples’ walk becomes more dynamic. It’s a journey that’s ever-growing, reliant, dependent, and radical.
This disruptive-dynamic pattern, found throughout Scripture, is indeed the norm, not an anomaly, of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Yet it is rarely the center (or even periphery) of modern Church life and ministry!
Reframing Effectiveness in Life and Ministry
As such many of the metrics that gauge effectiveness (whatever that means) in ministry are skewed, tilted toward a progressive, linear growth model.
Effectiveness then is gauged by a series of questions that spin out of the linear-progressive model assumptions. Questions such as:
- Do you have more (people, influence, tithes, etc.) this year than last?
- Are you doing more (programs and activities) this year than last?
- How many different ways did you serve your community last year?
- Are you better today than you were yesterday (when what we really mean is are you “sinning less” and better at keeping the list of rules we’ve created for what it means to be a “good Christian”)?
You get the picture. It’s the old do more, be better, try harder hamster wheel that’s exhausted so many of us so many times before.
These metrics need to be flipped upside down and turned on their head!
Such linear-driven progressive models of growth are more a creation birthed from our own need to control than they are a response to God’s invitation and desire that we surrender!
Once I began to reflect on it, I was (and continue to be) surprised by multiple ‘aha’ moments. These moments help me see that a disruptive and dynamic process of spiritual formation makes perfect sense when viewed in the light of the Kingdom of Christ.
The Magnificent Seven (Perhaps a Few More)
Over the next series of posts, I am going to share these ‘aha’ moments and how this disruptive/dynamic metaphor organizes my life and ministry.
I will, in fact, present at least seven areas of life and ministry that have been revolutionized as I’ve discovered this disruptive and dynamic journey of spiritual formation.
- Spiritual Rhythms/Disciplines
- The Gospel
- Small Groups
- Congregational Care, and Community Outreach.
- Discerning the Will of the Lord, Together.
I am sure to address other areas, but these are the ones that leap off the page and determine much of my ministry life these days!
If you’re sensing that it’s time for a new beginning, then perhaps these posts will be of encouragement.
Disrupting to Renew!
I’d love to hear from you!
*editorial assistance provided by Jessie Ray and Julie Palmer.