What comes to you mind when you hear the term ‘Spiritual Formation’?
What image is formed in your mind?
For many people ‘Spiritual Formation’ is a ‘step program’ that they undertook when they believed in the Lord Jesus and made the same confession with their mouths. It is an event not a continuous process. This is tragic to say the least.
In this month of June from the 1st -25th Integrated Living was priviledged to co-host a Spiritual Formation – Discovery with Imago Christi. When I told my friends, acquaintances and family about this program in the hopes of getting them to sign up for it, I got a lot of reactions that mostly bordered on ‘I could be least bothered’. However one particular response really struck me. It was a conversation with an older lady who really looked at me with pitiful eyes, backed it up in her speech and told me that she had already undergone spiritual formation with Life Ministry Kenya.
She really wondered how I had missed the spiritual formation train and where I had been all along. I let her know that I had also gone through the Life Ministry Program but that was different from Spiritual Formation. No matter how much I tried to explain to her that Spiritual Formation is not an event, a course/program that you undertake and move on, she remained adamant. She had undergone through the course and had the certificate to show for it!
I walked away from her feeling defeated. What was I doing wrong? Was my speech not clear? Were my words not well chosen to explain about this unending journey of being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ? How could I get the message of Spiritual Formation to my friends, family and acquaintances?
As Providence would have it, three people made the leap of faith and joined me and many other believers from across the globe for the 8 sessions of Discovery. And It was transformational to say the least!
So what is Spiritual Formation?
“Spiritual Formation is the process that takes place in the believer, as the life of the Spirit of God transforms our spirit through deepening intimacy with the Trinity, changing our being from the inside out into the likeness of Jesus Christ. Spiritual formation also involves the believer’s intentional response to God in this transformation process. Th goal of this process in the believer is the reflection of God’s glory in love.” Imago Christi
Three key components of Spiritual Formation are evident in this definition:
1. Spiritual Formation is a PROCESS
Unlike the destination/event understanding my friend had on Spiritual Formation, the reality is that it is a process. A life long one at that. A Process of sanctification, a process of transformation into the image of Jesus Christ (Imago Christi). Think of it like a journey, a long lifetime journey that you embark on from the day you make a confession of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. A Journey of knowing God, a Journey of knowing yourself as you are known by God. A Journey of growing into intimacy with the Divine.
Spiritual Formation is a journey that involves many actors. God is at the center of spiritual formation and the individual follows right after. Then comes community where we share and practice out what God is working in us as we commune with Him. You cannot walk this journey alone. You need other brothers and sisters who desire to grow in intimacy with the Lord, who desire spiritual transformation (process, response, result). And no, I am not necessarily talking about your local Church, even though that is an important space. I would urge you as a believer of Jesus Christ, who desires to know Him and grow into intimacy with Him to consider joining a community of people that seek the same. I would urge you to consider a space where you can learn and unlearn, about God and yourself as God sees you. Integrated Living and Imago Christi are some of the communities that provide such a space that I would recommend.
Important to note is that this entire Journey/Process is initiated by God. We cannot come to Him unless He calls us and by His Holy Spirit draws us to and into Himself. God Himself initiates and therefore sustains our growing and deepening relationship with Him.
2. Spiritual Formation is a RESPONSE
What we do with that call of God to us, drawing us to and into Himself is our response. This definitely means there is ACTION on our part. Spiritual Formation is not a passive process, it is not a magical happening; it involves work! It involves conscious living, living made alive by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual Formation requires that the individual to add to their faith, action.
Practically that would include intentional learning and unlearning about God and self as God knows you. It would also include intentionally setting times and spaces to be with the Lord. It would include the practice of spiritual disciplines like prayer, Bible Study, contemplation, solitude and silence. It is a daily, minute by minute with every breath surrender to the transforming love of God.
3. Spiritual Formation is a RESULT
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)
Peter and John have been arrested for preaching and they are now before rulers, elders, scribes, Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. They speak with such boldness and those before whom they stood ‘recognized they had been with Jesus’. It was clear, it was evident, it was the only plausible and logical conclusion for the kind of boldness two uneducated common men were displaying before the ruling religious and government elites – ‘they had been with Jesus’
Spiritual transformation produces results, change in the individual who has been with Jesus. The change is internal and then flows externally to every aspect of their lives. The change is evident, it cannot be hidden. Does this change always breed acceptance and embrace? No! As is the case with the disciples and the early Church, the spiritual transformation led to persecution, to hatred, to death.
Whereas not all Spiritual Transformation results in physical death, it will always end up in death. Death to self. Death to the world. Death to sin. Death to everything that does not please the Lord one has been drawn to and into. With death comes new life. Be it the new life after physical death or the new life from the death to self, world and sin. New life where Jesus is living in and through you. New life where you are in an increasingly growing measure being transformed into the image of Christ (Imago Christi).
New life where we are able to receive and respond to the love of God. New life where the overflow of that intimacy is reflected in how we see and treat people and creation. New life where through the overwhelming love of God we are continuously being transformed into the Image of Jesus Christ and as a result we become a conduit of that same love to humanity and creation.
- With this perspective, outlook, definition of Spiritual Formation how would you say your relationship with the Lord has been?
- Are you in a journey or did you, erroneously so, feel that you arrived at your destination once you believed in the Lord Jesus and made a public proclamation of your faith?
- Do you feel like you are in a “Christian rat race” a termed coined by Nungari Ngari?
- Do you feel, are you convinced that there must be more to Christian life apart from checking the to do list boxes and doing and more doing?
- Are you feeling tired of serving in a bid to earn or get to the love relationship with God you long for, you were created for?
- Is the Father calling you, nudging you, inviting you to a deeper fellowship, intimacy with Him?
If such is your longing, if such are your questions, if such is your desire, please feel free to get in touch with me. I would love to walk with you on your Spiritual Formation Journey. I would love to share resources, connect you with community and share in the joy of your deepening relationship with God.