Exploring Spiritual Formation is going to be a big part of our new role as we move on from Poplar to be Spiritual Programme Directors at The Salvation Army Training College. I've been trying to make sense of this latest twist of our journey in ministry. Dallas Willard sets the foundations for Spiritual Formation and makes a comforting connection for me - Mission and Spiritual Formation are intrinsically linked.
"The individual's life is often divided into incoherent fragments. Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control (Prov 25:28). In a world deeply infected with evil and ,stuff' that just happens, the usual case is that the individual does not consistently do what his or her own heart says is good and right. When successful, spiritual reformation unites the divided heart and life of the individual, and such people can then bring remarkable harmony into the groups where they participate". (Willard 2002:36)
Willard, D(2002) Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ
I'm fast coming to the conclusion that what unifies churches - whether institutional or em., large or small, neo-monastic or radically primitive, whatever it is that scratches your ecclesiastical itch - is the propensity for distraction.
We become pre-occupied with what we sing, what we don't sing, what worship looks like what worship could look like, what U2 lyrics to use to a clip from Whalerider, what U2 lyrics not to use to a clip from Whalerider. We become pre-occupied with our preference our choice. I look at the conferences we sign up for; the books we buy; the techniques we salivate over I wonder if we would all save a bit of money if we identified our 'divided incoherent fragments' of life and got back to the alternative way of living and being as modeled in the life of Jesus.
"If we fail to put the focus on [the] principles and absolutes,... we will wander off into a state of distraction. And that is where most of our local congregations actually are. They wind up majoring on minors and allowing the majors, from the New Testament point of view, to disappear." (Willard 2002:26)
The point is that an distracted heart contributes to a distracted church, a distracted church brings dissonance rather than harmony to its community. A focused heart contributes to a focused church, a focused church brings remarkable harmony where ever it may participate.