Sunday, November 18, 2007

Creating a System for Spiritual Formation

The Spiritual Formation System is the process designed by the leader to bring non-believers into a personal and vital relationship with Jesus Christ, and guides them to live transforming, missional lives.

As church planters we need to see that our role in the spiritual formation of others begins BEFORE they become followers of Jesus. They are seekers, curious, and willing to be in a relationship with us and our church. That's when the spiritual formation process begins - when they are willing to be in an ongoing relationship with us (e.g. once assimilated - see post on Oct 28th!) The process we design should effectively take them from this starting point to a maturing disciple of Jesus (see post on Nov 10th) who is reproducing and living a life on mission.

Most established churches do not have a well developed system such as this!

I have deep admiration for Willow Creek who recently wrote about their challenges in this regard in the book Reveal by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson. Few churches seem to be willing to be honest about this issue. Thank you Willow!

My experience has been that spiritual formation typically takes place for a spiritual seeker when 3 factors come together:
  1. The seeker experiences a meaningful (encouraging) relationship with one or more Christ-followers that leads to internal processing and accountability.
  2. The seeker pursues an interactive relationship with God through His Word, prayer, spiritual disciplines, etc.
  3. The seeker engages their natural talents/abilities in service to others to accomplish God's kingdom purposes.

On one hand this is very simple. On the other hand it may be totally new to think that this process can begin with a pre-Christian. We make a grave mistake compartmentalizing evangelism and discipleship. I see it as all one journey. These 3 things do not all happen at once. Many times a person will experience rebirth before experiencing all 3. But don't be afraid to bring seekers along side with you to just "do life" with you as you do it!

A very good resource and story can be found in Bob Roberts' book Transformation. Think about the T-Life Model that he has developed at his church.

Now your challenge is to think through all the steps that need to take place between assimilation (connected in relationships) and mature disciple. Keep it simple, but design experiences (not just classes) for people to plug in that challenges them to the next step. Finally, measure everything! A good coach will help you design, implement, and measure the effectiveness of your system! IT'S A MUST!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Systems for Health - A Spiritual Formation System

Another system that needs to be in place for a healthy missional church is a spiritual formation system. Sometimes church planters are so consumed with "gathering" that they forget what they are gathering people for. Our mission is to make disciples, not just gather people. So how do we do it?

The place to begin is to focus. What does a real disciple look like? Dallas Willard calls this an "Apprentice of Jesus." What does he/she look like? I like to guide church planters through a Biblical study and personal reflection process. You can download my worksheet at

Steven Covey tells leaders to "begin with the end in mind." This is critical if we are going to have an effective spiritual formation system. Begin there and then work backwards.

After a church planting pastor completes the worksheet he typically concludes that you can't work on everything all at once. So I suggest that you identify the top 4-6 qualities that need to be focused on in your congregation over the next 12 months. Then refine your qualities by stating them on very concrete objective statements. Once you get your spiritual formation objectives clarified, identify 3-5 measurable behaviors that will give indication that these objectives are being achieved.

Remember, if you can't measure it you can't manage it. A good coach will help you with this. Your coach should be able to guide you and help you define with clarity what it is you're trying to achieve. Next post = how to create the system!