Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Reimagining Spiritual Formation

Doug Pagitt and the Solomon’s Porch Community, 2003, Reimagining Spiritual Formation: A Week in the Life of An Experimental Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan)

This is the first book I have read that is written by a leader and the whole church! While the theme is about spiritual formation the book is actually about a community; the community of people who forms the Solomon’s Porch. The main emphasis is community.

Community as a means of spiritual formation serves to immerse people in the Christian way of living so that they learn how to be Christian in a life-long process of discovery and change. Christian community can and should be context for evangelism and discipleship, a place where faith is professed and lived (p.27)

Community is recognised to be the matrix in which Christian faith formation is nurtured and developed. This recognises the principle that Christians are formed in Christian by the matrix of relationships in community rather than ‘educated’ into being Christians. Earlier on, Pagitt commented:

The educational approach provides assurances of effectiveness through tests, catechisms, and statements of faith, which measure whether people have been “properly” formed. When we move beyond belief-based faith to life-lived, holistic faith, the only true test is lives lived over time. (p.25)

While the statement can be misinterpreted as saying that belief-based faith is not important, that is not what he meant. Pagitt is saying that we have been placing a lot of emphasis on belief-based faith which involves propositions and doctrines. Yet we cannot remain at that cognitive level. True faith is a life-lived faith. This means moving beyond the cognitive stage to the action stage. It means living out our faith in our daily lives in community.

The book was written as a journal in which spiritual formation occurs in the community through what they believe is important community practices. He uses the days of the week to bring the point across:

Spiritual formation through worship (Sunday)
Spiritual formation through physicality (Monday)
Spiritual formation through dialogue (Tuesday)
Spiritual formation through hospitality (Wednesday)
Spiritual formation through belief (Wednesday)
Spiritual formation through creativity (Friday)
Spiritual formation through service (Saturday)

Thus the community spiritual formation practices that Solomon’s Porch thinks are important are worship, physicality, dialogue, hospitality, belief, creativity and service. Physicality means recalling the body as part of human spirituality. Too often the body was neglected for the more “spiritual” pursuits. Yet posture during prayers, anointing with oil and even massage may be important formative practices (p.67-83).

In the concluding chapter, Pagitt made an interesting comment:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the task of both the new convert to Christianity and the experienced Christian was understood as not only believing the things of Christianity, but also as contextualizing, creating, articulating, and living the expressions of faith in their world? New Testament Christians lived it with the debate about how non-Jews would be called to a kind of spiritual formation that allowed Gentiles to fully follow Jesus in ways that were culturally appropriate to Gentiles. I am confident that we too will gradually move beyond the pre-industrialized approach of spiritual formation to one that better fits our own time (p.159).

I think it could not be better expressed. There is a need to contextualize, create, articulate and express our faith in each generation. In the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition, there is this expression that they are reformed and always reforming. John Calvin realized that while the basics of the faith remain the same, its expressions change with times.

Soli deo gloria

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Blogger Sivin Kit said...

wow you're "emerging church" reading has gone for overdrive! I was chatting online with Doug Pagitt and invited him to Malaysia for a holiday :-)and maybe we can get some conversations thrown in.

I need to catch up with my reading.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous blogmaster said...

my Pastor said the Solomon's Porch belongs to the emerging church movement. He also said the emerging churches are a cult and is against the gospel.

I am confused.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...


it will be great to have Doug Pagitt around and listen first hand to some of his experiences and thinking.


a (Christian) cult is defined as a community that does not acknowledge the basic doctrines of the Christian faith such as Jesus is the Son of God, the Triune God, Jesus' death and resurrection and the Bible is the word of God.

I believe that the emerging church movement are all Christians because they believe in all these things. In my review of their writings and in conversations with them, I have not come across anything that would suggest that they do not believe what we believe. Hence they are not a cult.

In their practice, many of them are very mission minded and evangelistic. Again I cannot say that they are against the gospel.

6:08 PM  
Blogger Sivin Kit said...

wow .. blogmaster, how did your pastor land up in that conclusion that emerging churches are a cult and against the gospel?

Alex, you have given a good reply.

12:19 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Thanks, sivin.

As a student of the church growth movement and now studying emerging/ emergent church movement and the ancient future church movement, I have discovered that a coin have two sides and we need to look at both sides before we can discern whether it belongs to Caesar or to God.

May I suggest an article by Scott McKnight? Scott McKnight, author of the Jesus Creed does not belong to the emerging/emergent church movement. This article is published by Christianity Today ( Feb 7,

Dan Kimball is involved with the emerging/Emergent church. Here is his blog post, "Please don't stereotype the emerging church."

An article from Berita NECF (Jan-Feb 2007). NECF stands for National Evangelical Christian Fellowship which is an umbrella fellowship for most of the Protestant churches in Malaysia. Berita means news.

Another article from Pastor Sivin Kit of Bangsar Lutheran Church published in Kairos magazine (Kairos Research Centre), issue Oct 2006

Finally may I offer some of my own comments from my blog, Random Musings from a Doctor's Chair

Hope you will find them useful.


1:52 AM  
Blogger Sivin Kit said...

Alex, I think you'd be interested in this Solomon's Porch video

8:40 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

thanks, sivin,

I shall have a look at it soonest :)

12:27 PM  

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