Saturday, March 04, 2006

brian mclaren session 2: forming disciples

brianmcl.png Opawa Baptist has wifi. So these are notes, what I heard Brian say, [with a few editorial comments by me], as Brian spoke for a day on the topic of spiritual formation. These are notes on the art of forming disciples.

Spiritual formation is for mission.

“It’s easier to give birth than to raise the dead.” Only a male could say that. Paul uses childbirth to “raise” the Galatian church. All leadership – planting or re-forming the established – will be hard. This is formation.

Revivalism cheers the start. It lacks attention to long distance formation.

Disciple = “student of the art.” Disciples are apprentices of Jesus.

Micheal Polanyi, Personal Knowledge. [Wow first time I’ve ever heard an emerging church speaker talk about Polanyi. I stumbled across Polanyi back in 1994 during seminary and find him useful in terms of offering a way out of the secular dualisms of Enlightment modernity.] “It follows that an art which has fallen into disuse for the period of a generation is altogether lost. There are hundreds of examples of this to which the process of mechanization is continously adding new ones. These losses are usually irretrievable. It is pathetic to watch the endless efforts — equipped with microscopy and chemistry, with mathematics and electronics — to reproduce a single violin of the kind the half-literate Stradivarius turned out as a matter of routine more than 200 years ago.”

Stradivarius had “elbow knowledge,” he was 4th generation violin maker. The art of apprenticeship has been lost in modernity. You learn to follow your master even when you can’t analyse or account for the detail. You watch and learn unconsciously, even those rules not explicitly known to the master.

This knowledge does not reside in books; “Idiot’s Guide to Violin’s.” It can only be assimilated by surrendering uncritically to the imitaton of the master.

“Practical wisdom is more truly embodied in action than expressed in rules of action.” Practical Knowledge, pp. 53-54. Could Christianity have become pre-occupied with words? Could we have lost this wisdom and the art of disciple-making?

You would have to go from church tradition to church tradition to try and put the lost fragments back together. It is an art learned by training.

What if the church risked everything to train in the art of discipleship?

We need a triangle of community; spirituality; mission.

In history spiritual formation has occurred in the following ways;
attraction; does not equal perfection
induction/initiation; becoming part of the group
transformation; you start to change
mission; you start to work this out in practice
transmission; you need to pass on the art. Mission is not the same as transmission.

One fragment; AD 200; Hippolytus.

Seeker – you could not become a Christian in AD 200 unless you knew one. This is attractional mission. You would come to a meal, experience the hospitality of the community. Then you would be dismissed. To stay you would be interviewed — not on 4 spiritual laws, but on your behaviour. Do you want to live our way of life?

Hearer – experience the whole service, including Apostles Creed and Lords Prayer. To be part of communion, you need to be interviewed. You would be assigned to be catechised, to prepare for baptism.

Kneeler – you would memorize a theology based on the Lords Prayer and to preform exorcism. For more, see Robert Webber’s Journey to Jesus. It is a helpful exploration of ancient church catechism. [Brian say’s this sounds strange, but I think we need to see exorcism not as individual, but as cultural. So I want to work on pre-baptism classes that exorcise cultural “evil.” This opens up environmental, economic and racial discernment.]

Transformation for mission – another fragment is the early church 3-fold way as stages of spiritual formation;

stage 1; purgative way – catharsis of sex, money and pride, not to get them out of your life, but to face sex, money and pride and to recognise how driven you are internally.

stage 2; illuminative way – having pulled back the curtains of my inner life, to be bathed in light. Practices include daily prayer – ie bathing in front of God, breath prayers (Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner), singing, etc. We begin to absorb God.

stage 3; unitive way – the goal is to experience the filling of the Spirit, to be awakened to God, to be a Christ-bearer.

These stages are a spiral, that you keep learning and deepening, and recircling.

Religious groups can malform and deform a person. What does it mean for us to explore spiritual re-formation?

Churches are like tortoises. They can only get ahead when they come out of their shell and stick their neck out.

Posted by steve at 01:23 PM


  1. I think what Brian Mclaren is triggering in us is a subtle transition from an intellectual consciousness of ‘God’ out there, to the ‘awakening’ of the ‘living’ God within.

    It is this shift in awareness that moves us to sit under the one teacher and heralds in the reality of the Kingdom of God and the love of our Father. It won’t happen otherwise. This is the true discipleship and not trained by men. It’s exciting.

    I’m sorry to hear you haven’t been feeling well Steve. Are you getting better?


    Comment by Brian Sage — March 4, 2006 @ 2:07 pm

  2. I know I asked for notes but this is incredible – thanks for another great first – allowing those that can’t be there to benefit in real time (well not quite, time lines and all that!).
    I posted something on my blog on the 3rd trying to reflect my thoughts on the whole spiritual practice issue and was incredibly reassured that I wasn’t talking rubbish when I read your live posts!

    Comment by Nigel — March 5, 2006 @ 11:00 am

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