Wilhoit’s approach is very academic feeling, but still very enlightening when I think about Christian Spiritual formation.
The book flows around four relationship experiences: Receiving, Remembering, Responding, Relating. Within each segment, Wilhoit reminds us of God at work in and around the relationships in our lives.
Receiving: we receive the Grace of God which grows faith within us.
Remembering: this is the grounding or the roots to the whole Christian life. Remembering is about the focal piece of our new identity as saved people, saved by the Grace of God through Jesus.
Responding: this is the expression of faith within us. It’s something that is like a blooming into action. It’s fostered and active.
Relating: this is where being-formed people continue to connect with others. This piece is all about seeking spiritually enriching community and opportunities for expressing love to others.
The most helpful pieces from the book were the twelve “Community Spiritual Formation Corollaries:”
- “All persons are formed spiritually. It may be in either as positive or negative direction. This formation may involve the cultivation of virtues that promote trust in God ans foster social compassion or may leave persons wary, self-protective, and unable to promote the welfare of society” (p.17).
- “Christian spiritual formation: (1) is intentional; (2) is communal; (3) requires our engagement; (4) is accomplished by the Holy Spirit; (5) is for the glory of God and the service of others; and (6) has as its means and end the imitation of Christ” (p.23).
- “The gospel is the power of God for the beginning, middle, and end of salvation. It is not merely what we need to proclaim to unbelievers; the gospel also needs to permeate our entire Christian experience” (p.29).
- “Christian spiritual formation seeks to foster a joyful apprenticeship in which we learn to live out the great invitations of Jesus, especially those concerning the life of prayer and love” (p.45).
- “The fertile field for formation is in a community genuinely aware of the depth of their sin and the reality of their spiritual thirst. True formation requires that the community deeply understands that they cannot cure the sickness of their souls through willpower alone” (p.63).
- “Our soul-thirst is powerful, and it makes all of us idolaters. The Bible sees idolatry as a universal problem. Communities have a unique way of embodying a corporate pride that blinds them to forms of idolatry. Also, faith communities can challenge idolatrous practices like racism in ways an isolated Christian seldom will” (p.76).
- “Worship filled with prayer and praise and opportunities for confession, repentance, receiving the sacraments, hearing and giving testimonies of God’s activity, and learning/challenge is the most important context of community formation” (p.86).
- “‘Be subject to one another our of reverence for Christ’ (Eph. 5:20). Submission, restorative discipline, and accountable spiritual leadership are ancient formative practices that mark healthy formative churches” (p.90).
- “Christian spiritual formation should always be more than the teaching ministry of the church, but never less. True formational teaching is compressive, deeply orthodox, healthy, and anointed by the Spirit of God” (p.139).
- “True Christian spiritual formation forms Christians with a deep identity and engagement with the church worldwide” (p.156).
- “Evangelism is an essential part of spiritual formation. Evangelism, as people are called to faith in Christ, is the initial act of Christian formation. The act of evangelism is a powerful means of formation for the believer who reaches out in love to share the good news” (p.167).
- “Conflict has a unique way of forming us. In conflict our natural patterns of defensiveness arise, and in this vulnerable place we can experience much growth as we lean that Jesus’ teachings are so sensible” (p.174).
With these concepts in the front of my imatination at the moment, I wonder what my move is. I’m also wondering what moves God is already in the process of doing in and around me and within the lives of others around me.
As I skim through the book looking over my highlight streaks and notes, I see this line from page 75: “Christian spiritual formation is not primarily about programs or techniques, but it is first and foremost about an approach to life.” That sentence sums up all twelve corollaries and four relationship that this book is all about.
…spiritual formation isn’t a class experience but an approach to life that is about receiving new life from God, remembering this new life’s cause and call, responding to this new life invitation by following Jesus as we’re recieving the ability and faith to do so, and relating with others in this lifestyle and being sent out to relate to all others in need of new life from God through Jesus.