Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Spiritual Formation in a Postmodern Context

According to Brian McLaren, the modern discipleship model may be described as knowledge = growth. In Pentecostal and charismatic churches, spiritual experiences were valued as causing spiritual growth hence, spiritual experiences = growth. In recent years, there have been a profound influence of mainline churches by the charismatic movement and spiritual growth can be denoted by knowledge + spiritual experiences = growth.

However there is a disillusion about the effectiveness of this formula as it was soon discovered that there is no real spiritual growth or personal or character transformation.

McLaren discerns,

“A number of factors may have contributed to this disillusionment, including boredom, pride over mastery of information (or experiences) without a corresponding transformation in character, a tendency to drift into esoteric or theological concerns far removed from making satisfactory interpersonal contact, superficiality, a sense that curricula and teaching methods were always shopping for the latest, greatest seminar, teaching series, or revival.”

Instead for a more holistic concept of spiritual formation, he suggests knowledge + experiences + relationship s+ practices + suffering + service + time = growth + health.

Knowledge is important and there is a need to learn for spiritual growth. However the methods of teaching must change from a didactic form of teaching to teaching that encourage us to reflect, to build upon previous knowledge and apply it to our own lives.

Spiritual experiences should be encouraged in contemplative practices where the Presence of God is experienced in the routine of normal life than in manipulative situations.

Relationship is more important in the model of the mentor and apprentice than in the modern discipleship model. The mentor is a spiritual friend (anam cara) or may also be a spiritual director (from the Benedictine tradition) to the apprentice rather than just a disciplemaker.

While the spiritual disciplines (quiet time, reading the Bible, witnessing, attending church) offered by the modern discipleship model have value, it often leads to the acquisition of knowledge only. We should learn from the monastic tradition where the spiritual disciplines are seem as more than acquisition of knowledge but for self-mastery for character or spiritual formation. Practices like fasting, contemplation, meditation, silence, solitude, simplicity, generosity and hospitality leads to greater experience of God than in knowing about him.

Suffering is an important practice in spiritual formation. In knowledge acquisition suffering is acknowledged but often avoided. In spiritual formation, suffering is embraced as a means of spiritual growth. It is through these dark nights of the soul that we come to know ourselves and God.

Serving is an important part of spiritual formation. We serve not only those in the community of faith but also those outside. Service is missional in that we align ourselves with the great redemptive work of God.

Time is an important consideration in spiritual formation, especially in our modern time-driven world. It takes time for spiritual formation to takes place. The idea is to mature with time, as we go through the seasons of our lives.

I found Brian McLaren's definition of spiritual formation on the blog,A New Kind of Conversation. Would appreciate if anyone will let me know in which of his many books did Brian write on this definition of spiritual formation? Thanks.

soli deo gloria

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Anonymous alwyn said...

awww...suffering as well?? guess we can't escape entirely then, huh?

but i think service is one of the definitive factors and marks of strong/'top-notch' spirituality...as per Jesus, "He is the least among you shall be the greatest" with 'least' being synonymous (i think) with intensity of service(?)

8:51 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi alwyn,

I agree with you. Suffering aw, man.

Service is another important component. While serving, though being important do not get us more brownies points. However it is in the process of service that we get to learn faith, know God, ourselves and our fellow beings.


9:07 AM  

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