There is a diverse group of people who read this blogsite. Many of the readers are leaders (and teachers, mentors, directors) who share the my own interests and have a similar kind of ministry. But, even if you do not see yourself as one of those people, but mainly as a servant, follower of Christ, I think you'll appreciate this. If for no other reason, than to pray for those who lead that we may do this with highest integrity.
In yesterday's post, I referred to a symposium that was contained in the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care.
Bill Johnson, pastor at Park Street Brethern Church was one of the contributors.
One VERY HELPFUL part of his response was to provide a brief description of the personal "commandments" that guide him in the work of spiritual formation ministry.
I am providing his personal ten commandments without his explanation that went with each. I think each theme is pretty self-explanatory, but I do add brief comments of my own for each one.
I provide this to stimulate to a similar kind of work. This kind of self-awareness reflection is immensely valuable. It is clarifying, illuminating of strengths and weaknesses, and a reminder that we must continue to be highly intentional about this important work.
With that said, here are Bill's personal ten commandments of formation ministry (with brief comments by me in the parentheses).
1. Anchor my spiritual formation ministry in the Bible. (Vital in our era of ecclectic spiritualities which are being uncritically adopted by many Christians.)
2. Spiritual formation first begins in me. (Absolutely, for we always imprint and leak out of who we are and what is in us.)
3. Love the church - no matter what. (To which I say a hearty amen!)
4. To be a minister of transformation, I must be a student of transformation. (Spiritual formation and direction are such vast fields that we must keep the standards high for those called to this vital work.)
5. Where I am in my personal spiritual development shapes everything about my spiritual formation ministry. (This one goes along with #2 and as I look back over what I teach and train in these things, it is ALWAYS the same thing that Christ is forming in me.)
6. When I am crucified in ministry I will consider it part of God's formation for me. (This is wise and discerning. The hardships and suffering of spiritual formation and ministry are where the most precious transformation takes place.)
7. Do not become a spiritual formation expert - EVER! (Okay, he wrote this one for me. But if the shoe fits . . .)
8. Invite - never coerce - people to formation. (Some things just can't be faked or forced. Respect and honor this sacred journey and allow God to guide who, what, when, where and how.)
9. I have to accept the fact that people will leave. (Just an observation that spiritual formation has become just one more source of "tension" in some circles. The body of Christ is wide and diverse and not everyone will like what you do and how you do it. For me this is experienced not so much in my local church community, but in resistance from a few with whom LCI works who in other organizations.)
10. Never do personal spiritual formation in isolation, never do spiritual ministry alone, and never be formational without being missional. (I would probably divide this one in to #10 and #11. The latter a cautioning reference to the easily embraced tendency of narcissistic spirituality that is neither very transformative nor launching of the one being formed to be formed as a misisonal servant of Christ in the world.)
In summary - thank you Bill Johnson for these good invitations/prescriptions you have learned from your own experiences.
And my encouragement to all of us is to spend the time in shaping our own essential guidelines for this kind of work.
Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International