Maturing the Modern Spiritual Formation Movement

4) We do not center on curriculum-based solutions . . . ever. Curricula of all sorts are important but they come way down the line in formation work. Curriculum must always be subservient to ideas and ideas must always be subservient to relationship. In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard (rightly in my estimation) has a chapter entitled, "A Curriculum for Christlikeness." However, this is the ninth chapter, and it comes only after a careful delineation of the unique qualities of the interactive relationship between Jesus and his apprentices and a careful explication of the central ideas related to this life in the kingdom of God. Far too many people rush to the curriculum program of chapter nine without establishing in their lives the foundations set forth so carefully in all that comes before. We must not leave out the curriculum work, but it never comes first and it must never be central. Nor can it ever be a "cookie-cutter" curriculum. Unique individuals people require unique, individualized curricula. Frankly, "cookie-cutter" curricula are very much like cookies -- all sweetness with precious little nutrition.

5) We draw wisdom and insight from the ancient sources . . . always. We reject the heresy of the contemporary. The people of God throughout history instruct us in the way eternal. Bible sources and post-Bible sources. We learn from Moses. We learn from Luther. We learn from Joseph of Arimathea. We learn from Catherine of Genoa. These are our teachers, our models, our inspiration.

6) We do not aim at outward action . . . ever. It is the renovation of the heart we are after. This inward work is much harder than mere outward conformity . . . and also easier. It is harder because we cannot see it, test it, control it. We cannot program the heart of another human being. We cannot program our own heart. But this is what makes it easier. God is the One who sees the heart. God is the One who tenderly programs the heart -- always allowing time and space for our will to turn and respond to divine Love. We are working in conjunction with a greater Plan, a greater Planner. We are part of God's great Renovation project for human beings. And so we can work at rest. We can labor under God's abiding grace.

7) We are keenly aware that true inward transformation will incline our hearts toward suffering humanity . . . always. Deep suffering is found everywhere, among the down and out and among the up and in. As our hearts are increasingly renovated, they will become increasingly tender toward the bruised and the broken, the helpless and the hopeless. We will then find ways to move outside our insulated bubbles of security. Trevor Hudson, a South African pastor and writer, during the darkest period in his country's history of apartheid, developed an eight-day experiential program designed to help young South Africans reflect upon the meaning of their faith and discipleship within the harsh and oppressive sociopolitical realities of their nation. Trevor calls this experience "The Pilgrimage of Pain and Hope." Oh, may we find ways to come alongside suffering human beings and together walk the pilgrimage of pain and hope!

Friends, right now spiritual formation is popular and much sought after. This time will pass, and when it does, we will continue on. Frankly, whether we are in the limelight or in obscurity is of no consequence whatever. Such matters are wood, hay, and stubble. We seek everlasting results: gold, silver, and precious stones (1 Cor. 3:12). So, dear friends, live faithfully to the end. Be constant in season and out. Proclaim the good news of the kingdom. Walk cheerfully over the earth.

Richard Foster is the founder of Renovaré. He has authored or co-authored seven books, including Celebration of Discipline and Life With God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation (with Kathryn A. Helmers). He is also the lead editor of The Life with God Bible.

The above was originally developed for internal purposes, for friends and supporters of the Renovaré movement, and was put forward as a suitable contribution for this series. Copyright 2006 Renovaré, 8 Inverness Drive East, Suite 102, Englewood, CO, 80112, USA, Reprinted with permission.Subscribe to the Renovaré newsletter here.

8/13/2010 4:00:00 AM
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