Friends 2007: Discipleship [11]

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11 more days to go … for more information go to Friends in Conversation 2007

One of the topics for the event is “Discipleship” (which will be an evening meeting open to all interested even if they did not register for the event). Here’s how we are framing the evening conversations:

DISCIPLESHIP – tired of shortcuts and superficiality

How do people see their Christian life today? How is discipleship and/or spiritual formation happening now in our churches? Are their any new directions, paradigms or practices Christians are experimenting? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Where is the role of the Bible in this process? what is the place of church history or traditions – east or west?

I left this extended comment on a blog today where underneath the surface words is actually a belief that the spiritual formation thing has something to say about how we view ourselves as men and women as well as in the way we relate to each other .

“As an occasional beer-wine drinking Lutheran pastor, I’m amused with you on the liquor discussion. But I shall not comment more. Maybe when we talk face to face 🙂

As a man, I think this stereotyping of men and women by the book industry drives me nuts while it sells more books and distracts people from simply learning to relate to each other rather than a wasteful use of energy battling with all this “prejudices” in their head (and then forgetting how to understand the human being in front of us!). I meet with 2 other men monthly for a time of sharing and prayer. So far we haven’t played any sports together.

As a married man (now with 2 kids), I agree with you that “when it comes to pursuing Christian women and wooing a life partner”, it seems that many are scared to make the first move. Maybe it’s more of being part of a culture that is afraid of making mistakes which really is the root. On top of that, there’s this “manly myth” now even promoted in the church! Lord have mercy … how many more superimposed expectations do we need?! Lord have mercy.

I suspect it’s less about being “manly” or “womanly” for that matter then getting free from the reigning model of “romantisized” view of courtship and marriage (can I say illusions!?). Now, this is worth doing a solid Bible study on, throw in some historical stuff like how Kattie Von Bora pursued Martin Luther (ok my Lutheran bias is showing here!), and some “alternative” stories of how people ditch the “norm” of how marriage stories are supposed to be, then maybe each person can have some fresh confidence to co-author their story with God with more spice and surprises. (disclaimer: I am not anti-romantic … I simply think the “romance” defined by most people is a little over-rated?!)

A good dose of healthy self-acceptance, an ongoing self-discovery in “safe relationships” (cf. community of friends) and also learning how to relate and take risks in relationships is a good step. For example, the important “foundation” of friendships (even fore husband and wives) ?

as for your complaint to Mr. B, “nobody tells you that the Christian life is going to be a struggle, that you have to surrender to God, and trust Him even when it doesn’t seem logical to do so, and all that other stuff which involves challenge and adventure and risk…”, I don’t mind being the “nobody” who will tell them. I think I’ve been a “nobody” doing it for years .. is anyone listening?”

I think underlying the concerns embedded in this kind of discussion is a pull away from “shortcuts and superficiality”.

On a worthwhile post here Comparing Dallas Willard and Brian McLaren, I think my comments are a little more basic.

“I see Willard as a “scholar” willing to engage in the realities spiritual formation needed for our time and age. He’s a good example of how scholars can contribute to the maturity of the church beyond the academia.

As for McLaren, I see him as a pastor or now more like a “practitioner” reflectively drawing on and integrating (even “popularizing”) insights often confined to the academia or non-mainstream evangelicalism (cf. thus the appreciation of other traditions). He’s a good example of how pastors and practitioners can creatively use resources to enrich church ministry and mission.

Both come from different vantage points (from a vocational point of view) and yet contribute under a common theme of “making disciples” and “the Gospel of the Kingdom.”

I have some thoughts from a more “political” point of view. But that’s for another day.”

A little comment here in UNDERSTANDING SPIRITUAL FORMATION reveals a little more from me. It’s still basic maybe because I tend to be a big picture person first before getting sucked into details. And I think in the Malaysian context we’re either too busy with getting the “discipleship” program right (whether in choice or implementation) or thrown in a whirlpool of theoretical discussions and then overwhelmed until we are powerless to start the process with freedom (yes, freedom even to make mistakes!!)

“…based on your response, it appears i read your article from a very different set of assumptions than those from which you wrote”

Dear Alex and Wilsford, this statement itself is worth the interaction with the article and one another. What’s important today as we discuss any subject matter is the “awareness” of the assumptions we bring to the material we interact with.

We seem to be walking along the same road in terms of moving away from spiritual formation as a mere checklist like formality to a process of transformation of heart, mind and soul – the total of life here on earth. “

I like the word spiritual formation, or in some cases, Christian formation. But I don’t want to surrender the word “discipleship” to a program (even though it’s tempting for most churches today to reduce it to that). There are many good words (which in a deeper way has much formative content – when understood rightly and faithfully) – for example, “Grace” (I decided not to use the phrase “grace period” because it misses the point), “evangelism” (I always try to unpack it and addressing our tendency to program it), “commitment” (where most people hear legalism, I see love and mission), “church” (the number one word being bashed around these days sadly), “spiritual disciplines (which doesn’t sound very appealing but is simply human and part of life. e.g. various disciplines for studies, the simple disciplines or rhythms of work, sleep, play, etc).

Is it mere semantics? I think not, I think our language can help or hinder us. Especially when some words may have lost their meaning for us, or even been abused by others, and then there’s the most basic – perhaps we have misunderstood what it means and how the reality behind these words actually relate to our everyday lives?

As for what’s in my “toolbox” or “treasure chest” (depending which metaphor resonates with you) – here’s a sampling(nothing fancy):
– Scripture (The Old and New Testaments), sometimes a peek at the Apocrypha (for extra value like reading historical texts or devotionals though not authoritative!)
– the Creeds
– the small and large catechism (cf. learning from the reformers?!)
– Pia desideria (cf. spiritual writings in our common church history)
– The losungen (cf. moravian daily texts)
– the Liturgy – whether ancient-future, or creative and contemplative
– Theology
– Church history
– Reflections from missionaries
– reactions from the context both classic and current.
– music
– movies
– add to the list (I got to go and help get my kids out of the bath tub! Now! did I mention “context”? *grin*)

until the next post!

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