Why Spiritual Formation?

spiritual-formation“How can we make disciples if we don’t know what one looks like?”

“We can’t hope to transform the world until we ourselves are transformed.”

Questions like these have lately had me pondering the question “Why Spiritual Formation?” By spiritual formation, I am talking about Christian spiritual formation, or the process of learning to follow the way of Jesus Christ. But, I think the term “spiritual formation” works equally well for other faith traditions, and even those who claim to be “spiritual, but not religious”.

Spiritual formation is our search for meaning. We ask the big questions, like “why am I here, how shall I live, or what’s my purpose in life?” For me, it a search for God, or the Divine. I have discovered that in my search for God, I discover myself, or at least the person God hopes I’ll become.

Spiritual formation is a continuing process, a journey – one that lasts a lifetime. No quick fix here. Equally frustrating, we must learn to be content with mystery and not having the answers.

Something else I’ve discovered along my spiritual journey – we are not meant to go it alone. We need fellow pilgrims, we need community. We need others to listen, hold us accountable, and accept us in love.

Spiritual formation helps me to reevaluate my priorities, to set aside ego and the desire to control, to be present and open to the moment and others. I strive to be attuned and receptive to what God is already doing in the world and in those I encounter along the way.

Spiritual formation is the foundation for the Christian life and gives me the language with which to describe the indescribable. As a friend of mine said once, “Life is a metaphor for life”. Words like salt, light, shine, fire, spirit, breath, all take on significance for the spiritual pilgrim.

Finally, as much as we need spiritual formation to transform the world and make disciples, it is almost absent from our churches, and not even a blip on the radar of the secular society we live in. There are probably good reasons for this absence, but listing them doesn’t help fill the vacuum of spirituality in many people who claim to be Christians.

As we “rethink church” and look for ways to redevelop existing congregations, I think we need to help people figure out how to be transformed spiritually. Perhaps then they will be equipped to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Transformation starts with the individual human heart.