Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spiritual Formation and the Missional Pilgrim

I am currently co-teaching a course in Westminster’s Academy for Spiritual Formation with one of our pastors, Gary ArnTessoni. The course hinges on spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation, especially in anticipation of the Lenten season that is just beyond the horizon. While I am in the midst of several major life transitions, including a recent move into our first home (a humorous blog post is forthcoming), I have not found the time to write a thoughtful reflection. However, I thought it would be at least beneficial to post the outline from this past week’s class for those interested. I am a firm believer that my thoughts and contributions to the Christian community are not to be held onto, rather shared-and engaged, even freely over the internet! That said, I hope this finds you well…

I.  A Strange Cultural Pilgrimage
  • Before we begin to discuss and ultimately practice some spiritual disciplines I think we should begin with a brief exercise, a pilgrimage, if you will…
    • Reading from Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith (p. 19-22)
    • Discussion Questions
      •  Where are we? What is our destination?
      •  What were some of the images and icons that formed this pilgrimage?
      •  How is the “mall” a place of spiritual formation? How can it be considered a place of worship?
      •  Why would it be significant to start a course on spiritual disciplines with this sort of exercise?
    •  Return of the pilgrim: Christians often forget that we are on a journey, sojourners, and pilgrims, living and moving with intention, purpose, and hope. Moreover, our destination is not beyond the clouds, but towards the kingdom of God that is breaking in all around us. As we travel, our hearts and minds are to be shaped and formed by the dreams of God, the way of Jesus, and the vision of this kingdom already here and yet-to-come. 
    • Spiritual Disciplines are the practices and exercises of the pilgrim intent and determined to have the eyes, ears, and imaginations shaped by the voice of God, the heart of God, and the hope of God. These disciplines focus the pilgrim, sustain the pilgrim, and send the pilgrim on the way as a follower, a sojourner, and a participant in the kingdom of God. 
    • Yet, the strange exercise at the beginning reminds us that the Holy Spirit is not the only kingdom, worldview, or formative movement that lobbies for our allegiance
      •  Further Discussion:
        • What are some other examples of “religious” institutions that form our hearts, minds, and imaginations?
        • What are their messages?
        • How do they reflect the kingdom of God? How are they at deep odds with it?
      • Interesting Observations: (see slides by clicking here: for easier viewing click "file" and "download original")
        • Ron Sider in Rich Christians, p. 23
        • Brian McLaren, “everything is spiritual formation”
        • M.R. Mulholland in Jesus Creed, p. 232.
II. Spiritual Disciplines (see slides by clicking here)
  • Brief Discussion
    • What are some familiar spiritual disciplines and practices?
    • Have you had any unique experiences with such disciplines? If so, explain.
    • Why would spiritual disciplines be significant? What is the aim and /or intent of spiritual disciplines?
    • What makes spiritual disciplines difficult?
  • Spiritual disciplines as “soul tending”: see quote from Soul Tending, p. 21
  • Spiritual disciplines as an “inward journey” for the “outward journey”; we do not engage the spiritual disciplines for our own internal contentment alone; rather, the inward journey is for the outward journey, i.e. spiritual disciplines form us and send us to be the people of God in and for the world and to participate in the mission of God
  • Brief Practice: (click here for a helpful resource and guide)
    • Lectio Divina: 1 Cor. 2:1-12
    • Centering Prayer