Intentional Environments for Formation

This Sunday Darrel and I are tag-team preaching, continuing our “Intentional” series.  In regards to being intentional in our discipleship, we’ve talked about how there are already some natural “places” of transformation already embedded in our lives and our church that become opportunities to encounter Jesus’ transforming presence. Transformation happens as we place ourselves in the environments provided and embrace the presence of Jesus we find there.

Here are three are such environments we’ve talked about so far…places where natural transformation into Christlikeness occurs if we are willing to engage our hearts and encounter Jesus in them. It happens by intentionally placing ourselves in environments with the intent of encountering God Himself that he might do what only he can do and we can experience the genuine metamorphosis of spiritual transformation.

Relational Discipleship:  We encounter Jesus and become more like him by living in authentic and transparent community with other Christ followers. Being formed in Christlikeness is always lived out and made complete in community. Biblical truths and message are hammered out on the anvil of faithful community living…in an environment of ongoing nurture through relationships of trust, vulnerability, modeling, and accountability.

Experiential Discipleship:  We are transformed when we experience Christ transcendently marked my moments in worship, beauty, and tragedy and the miraculous (Col.1:27).

While the process of spiritual formation is life long, there are moments and places of encounter with Jesus that transform us.  Whether it is in corporate worship or on a mountain top, a majestic cathedral, an on-going personal trial, or unexplained suffering, there are moments of encounter with the divine that defy explanation and yet mark us…and we are never the same again.

Intellectual Discipleship: We are transformed into Christlikeness by learning, studying, reading and applying truth to our mind and heart.   (2 Tim. 3:16, 17)

Encountering Jesus engages both intellect and emotion.  Believing that the head and heart are to be integrated and not divorced, the goal is never about just obtaining more information. Biblical faithfulness is more than just mailing down the meaning of a text. If Bible study does not transform us, warns Reggie McNeal, it is “merely a head trip … an idolatrous substitute for genuine spirituality.” Col. 3:16 – “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”

This Sunday we continue with:

Personal Discipleship:  We create space in our lives for transformation through intentional spiritual practices.  (1Timothy 4:7-8)

The intentional practice of a spiritual discipline such as scripture reading, prayer, solitude, or fasting are environments is where we train our hearts to remain open and surrendered to the fresh, on-going work of the Holy Spirit. They are not “spiritual principles” or “moral guidelines” we perform as a way to go about improving our condition.  They are not a formula we follow so we can harness divine favor or look godly.  They are not a means of earning but a means of grace in our lives.

They are also indispensable to a life of faith but only to the degree that they allow us to “keep company” or connect with God.  Often it is through a spiritual discipline we make space in our lives for God to birth in us what we can’t do ourselves.  Transformation is entirely by grace (the work of the Spirit), but it requires our active, intentional participation through regular spiritual practices.

What I’ve discovered about practicing the spiritual disciplines is that they are like riding on the back of my husband’s motorcycle….


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