Tuesday, September 13, 2005

formational environments

I’ve been thinking recently about “spiritual formation.” How do we grow, how are we shaped into the image of God? Coming to a long-established church, so much seems adhoc, a group here or a sermon there. So I have been pondering what it means as a church to become “formational environments”?

It’s such a big question and I have not even been sure where to start. So this morning, I personalised the question. What has “formed” and grown me over my life?

I identified some key people – with names like Peter and Marjory and Mike.
I noted the importance of being given opportunity – in ministry and with encouragement.
I recognised the necessity of space – which for me was theological seminary and the PhD process.
And somewhere in there are regular habits – of reading and reflection and prayer.

people + opportunity + space + regular habits; together these have been for me significant formational factors.

But my experiences are not necessarily universal. So, I’d value your input. Over your life, what have been the key events/circumstances/things that have formed you spiritually?

Posted by steve at 11:37 AM


  1. Maybe you could include times of suffering and trial in your life, or do you not see those as times of growth ?… perhaps producing frustration instead. The story of Job comes to my mind. The last thing that Job is recorded as saying to God was , ” I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee ” (Job 42:5 ). Quite a paradigm shift in his spiritual formation I’d say, among other things. Just some thoughts. Thanks for the insights ~ Tena koe !


    Comment by Paul Tangira — September 13, 2005 @ 3:49 pm

  2. I recognize my own jurney in your points, bu i will say that there also have been some significant moments where i had an encounter with God, so being in the “holy place” has also been formative for me

    Comment by Thomas DK — September 13, 2005 @ 6:45 pm

  3. Triune God + key people + opportunities + space + regular practices + life experiences (+ & -) + key txts + thin places + technology = spiritual formation

    Comment by Paul Fromont — September 13, 2005 @ 7:15 pm

  4. Dissapointment, hopelessness, humilation, perseverance, counselling, medication, reparenting from older people, buckets of love, space, despair, Jesus.

    I know its a bit random, but I have grown so much through pain, i hardest thing to grasp in my life has been hope because life always dissapointed for the first 25 years of life. Jesus is so good.

    Bless everyone


    Comment by Timothy Wright — September 13, 2005 @ 7:32 pm

  5. Yeah, I’d add crisis/pain. Made me sift the real from the transient; truth from BS; faithful from fake; etc… n Clinton writes a loy about these boundries in a leader’s life in ‘The making of a leader’.

    Comment by Andrew — September 13, 2005 @ 11:03 pm

  6. My recent list includes (but is limited to):
    sheer despiration – life circumstances forcing me way out of my comfort zone – this is what behavioural psychologists term negative reinforcemen, i.e. you are in pain until you solve the problem…
    fundamental belief in the possibility of true holiness – “God’s grace is the power of his presense that enables you to be all that he calls you to be and do all that he calls you to do” – Bob Crane
    commitment to try anything (see despiration)
    practice of anything (see despiration)
    by trial and error finding tools that consistently effect change (note I haven’t found any effective Christian practices)
    love of God and his creation and an unshakable experience of him in nature
    travel – emotionally, psychologically, spiritually as well as physically
    intentionally wanting to grow
    willingness to loose my faith (see despiration)
    rejection of what isn’t working (see despiration)
    fear of hell (see despiration)
    total honesty (see despiration)
    excessive amounts of information, books, web, conversation (see despiration)
    willingness to embrace the pain (see despiration)
    Alanis Morisette
    conversation in intimate relationship, with friends, on the phone and on-line – as iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another
    James Hollis
    Tao Te Ching
    escaping church


    Comment by DangerMouse — September 14, 2005 @ 12:26 am

  7. Frustration – Blogging – Discussing with friends – music – movies…

    I like the fact that, from the other lists, spiritual formation is multi-faceted… definitly not resigned to a “step-by-step”/”this is how you do it” type process… it’s good to know that I’m not necessarily doing it wrong!

    Comment by Patrick — September 14, 2005 @ 1:54 am

  8. I would agree wholeheartedly with your equation of people + opportunity + space + regular practice, but like some others above, I would add “holy moments” or kairos moments: times when some kind of experience propels me onward, across a line, or something like that (a more appropriate metaphor escapes me at the moment). They aren’t predictable, so you can’t really build a curriculum for spiritual formation on them, but they certainly are formative when they happen. So I would put those kinds of experiences on the list.

    I would also add crisis/trials to the list (like others above). There is some kind of deepening that happens in times of suffering. I’ve seen it in others and in myself. And of course it’s talked about a lot in the Bible. But again – those aren’t predictable things, so you can’t plan on them.

    I think to create environments of formation would involve training people how to respond to holy moments and times of suffering, and also training them in the more mundane aspects of formation (people/opportunity/space/practice) – the mundane/normal parts are the parts we can plan and implement, while remaining open to and ready for the more dramatic parts (holy moments/suffering).

    Comment by Ben — September 14, 2005 @ 4:35 am

  9. Music – definitely. I spent two years not listening to “non-Christian” music – chose music and artists who were overtly Christian and found that a massively rewarding time… I preached a sermon to a group of youth on that once – I still remember that sermon… does it count if the preacher remembers it? ;o)

    Comment by Randall — September 17, 2005 @ 1:02 pm

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