FOUNDATIONS OF SPIRITUAL FORMATION: A Community Approach to Becoming like Christ BLOG POST
In preparation for service for God’s Kingdom, whether through seminary or any sort of Bible school, the student of the Word can have all kinds of expectations for what a lifetime walk with God will be like. There have been so many burnt out pastors and volunteers both in the church establishment and on the mission field. How to prevent this sort of disaster and shipwreck of spiritual leaders right from the start? The foundation is certainly a key factor, and this being not only in an intellectual understanding of the Bible but a daily walk with the Creator and Author who inspired its writing. As long as the foundation is true, with real faith built through understanding of the Word into a walk with God personally, then no matter what may occur in one’s service for God’s Kingdom, nothing can shake that core where the true energy exists.
One thing this book does express all throughout is the need for community and fellowship on top of just knowledge of the Word. As the Word says to “speak to each other in spiritual songs and hymns,” so communing with other Christians is vital to the whole overall campaign of one’s service for God. Many pastors fall for the cult of personality and trying to solve the needs of many people all on their own, in a sort of Lone Ranger mentality.
You often hear of corruption in the church establishment across all denominations these days and the problem is much more deeply rooted into personal issues of the faith than most people might care to realize. Besides all the theory, well thought out sermonizing and organization, at what point does the real and true Living God fit into the picture? The Bible itself is a collection of journeys from Abraham to the Early Church, and is full of warnings like “He who would choose to be My disciple, let him forsake all that he has, and take up his cross and follow Me.” Everyone walking with God starts a personal long term adventure with God that cannot be contained or predicted in the ways most theological seminaries try to prepare their students for.
The people are leaving the church system today in droves, and for a good reason. You can find more truth from people on YouTube stuck in traffic with their phones but offering grass roots faith to people in that community than stuffy preaching with well-fed comfortable and well dressed pastors who awkwardly beg for money between a carefully orchestrated service with music and a kindergarten-level “sit down, stand up, greet the person next to you, now clap your hands, raise your hands” sort of faith. None of the early Christians did it like this, maybe because they were often meeting in catacombs and studying Paul’s letters in prison, not in seminary.
To get back to the collection, I will continue to rant on this spirit of religion and use it today as an example of how out of date modern Christian training is. The real world has left the church building to find God elsewhere, and I can’t help but see these dusty pages as yet another example of this societal phenomenon. Gail Seidel talks a bit on the subject of your life’s story, and this may be the most useful section of the entire book, but even there it can be easy to relapse back into a mere emotional or intellectual rather than valid and true connection to the Word and the Lord. How about the stories of those saints “Of Whom the World was not worthy” listed in Hebrews 11, where God seemingly allows extremely adverse circumstances to arise and this all fits into the God’s overall plan somehow? Harry Shields argues for the importance of preaching, and he is right on this. In fact all the authors of this volume are technically right. There is no heresy outright to be found here. The main issue is that in keeping people in a box who are ready to go out and face the world of 2018 which is extremely dynamic and filled with challenges unknown even to the early Christians, we should be expecting God to reveal to us new methods and those (Biblically sound!) ways may include prophecy, engagement with supernatural beings including angels and fighting demons, what we would call teleportation and telepathy and more. The church is completely neutered in the way its training its future leaders, and they’re simply not ready for the lightning-fast realms these leaders are going to face.
Richard Averbeck has a lot to say about the importance of worship, and I agree with him. But how about the power of praise in the face of hundreds of witch covens in Pennsylvania cursing your Bible study when you convert one of their warlocks? I would offer that these kinds of collections from theologians could use a healthy injection of the works of such pastors as Russ Dizdar who currently works with the FBI to help heal those who have been severely abused in SRA/DID situations (SRA stands for Satanic Ritual Abuse, DID is Dissociative Identity Disorder). In the past, these cases including the MK-ULTRA program which evil elements of our own government conducted illegally were deemed “conspiracy” but now are well known facts known by almost everyone except the leaders of the church system. Is the student who reads these works prepared to handle the reality of Satan infiltrating their own church building? Hundreds and hundreds of Christians are having this conversation outside the walls of the seminary. Perhaps it is symbolic that almost all videos online that can be found by these authors have the comments disabled. Most seminaries, also like to keep any discussion about these lecturers free from any discussion in the public arena.
If Jesus were to attend one of these institutions I wouldn’t be surprised if He would stand up in the middle of the lectures and pronounce strict words on these who handle the truth, who have the keys of knowledge, but have not allowed others to enter in, and have not entered in themselves either.
To finish off, and to say some positive things on the book, Gordon Johnston and Darrel Bock provide an interesting analysis on “centrality of community in real spiritual formation” in the Old and New Testaments, but one must ask the question (if one can even digest the meaning of that idea): Is this going to actually help a Jedi blow up a spiritual Death Star with the Rebellion or is this just another study with people surrounded by dusty Bible commentaries that will help you also join the ranks of those who merely talk in comfortable universities about the saga of “Long long ago, in a Galaxy Far far away” but not the real spirit war that exists right outside your front door which is full of danger and excellence, betrayal and victory, heroes and villains as we march towards the last battle of Armageddon coming soon to an Israel near you?