Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dallas Willard on Spiritual Formation... 1/9

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)

Mission and Spiritual Formation...

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.


Eleanor Burne-Jones said...

I've blogged my response over at http://www.eveningbeaches.blogspot.com

Having had training in mediation, I see conflict as inevitable and a normal part of church life. What matters is how we handle it - in that if we can integrate a gentle and creative conflict transformation into the normal life of a church, conflict becomes an opportunity to encounter the grace of God and to come to a deeper understanding of one another and the issues facing us. In a remarkable way, particularly because of the way our God transforms us and situations, it can contribute to harmony rather than undermine it. But it is up to us as a church to decide how we respond.

Warmest blessings
Eleanor n/TSSF

Thomas said...

Hey Gordon!

Hope alls going well!

IHQ is going well. Perhaps if you're up for it we can meet for coffee/lunch sometime next week!

God Bless!


Andrew Bale said...


I agree completely.

See my blog entry on Finney’s ‘Systematic Theology’ (September 8th - beyondthebrook.blogspot.com)

I would go further and draw on Carol Young’s comments (September 9th - old-wells.blogspot.com) and say that we are seeing the establishment of individual communities within the church (these are not formed along denominational – they cross denominational boundaries).

These communities have a series of celebrity speakers/icons to whom they look for guidance. They have a stock library selected from the works of their chosen celebrity authors. They attend a celebrity circuit of events where their celebrity speakers are invited to preach and where their celebrity preachers’ books are offered for sale.

The whole thing is sustained internally. Very few conversions occur as the focus is largely inward. These communities are identified by the clothes people wear, the songs they sing, the way they speak, the friends they keep (the people they ignore) etc. These communities talk about revival but believe that a real spiritual awakening can only occur once the church universal joins their cause. So it is their cause which becomes their raison d'ĂȘtre and the rest of the church the enemy – it is a deeply sad state of affairs and one which is currently showing its teeth in our own territory.

To quote from an email I sent recently “When will we learn that we are unsuccessful not because we wear the wrong clothes, sing the wrong songs, print the wrong tracts or call each other the wrong names - we are unsuccessful because we are personally and corporately disobedient. It is not a matter of cultural relevance but a matter of personal consecration. When Salvationists rediscover the essential requirement of entire sanctification then God will bless us.”

Yours set apart by Christ, for the lost, in the Army.


Gordon said...

Andrew - thanks for the comments, the partisan approach I believe can be seen and you are right it really is a distraction.

Eleanor - thanks as ever!

Thomas - I'll check the diary and give you a call.