Tag Archives: Spiritual Formation

Disciple Formation and *Raw Spirituality* by Tom Smith (a Book Review)

Raw Spirituality is written by Tom Smith, a South African minister whose heart has been formed to truly care about discipleship in the Christian community. He’s seen “discipleship” used as a sales pitch and drives us away from that in his book. He’s given us a good story on discipleship here and the end-of-chapter questions set us into a conversation with the author.

The book is approachable; it’s a quick, enjoyable read. But, it also has wisdom that makes you put the book down for a second. The wisdom is often a well-placed quote, like Kierkegaard’s quote on pg. 29 (“…It is not a question of interpretation but of action.”). Sometimes it’s an original word from Tom that makes you pause.

I caught myself often thinking about my disciple-making context through Tom’s words. For example, I paused to think about helping people draw healthier mental images of God (an idea from chapter two), and to think about helping people see their entire lives as an incarnation of eternal life in Jesus’ likeness (inspired by chapter six). Each chapter lent itself to inner dialog. Hearing stories and ideas like Tom’s is going to make a difference where I’m at.

Raw Spirituality is a composition of postures, practices and mindsets that lead to health in the way of Jesus. Tom has written chapters that build on one another and each chapter has an image to remember the practice by. In reality, the book is similar to a monastic “rule of life,” in that it writes out (for his context) what a community is called by God to do and how they intend to do it. While Benedict’s Rule isn’t hard to understand, Tom’s book, by comparison, helps you see that a “rule of life” is a helpful tool for a Christian community, and not only helpful, a real gift that clarifies what people hope for.

Tom’s “rhythm of life,” looks like this:

  1. #1. “What is your picture of God?”
  2. Plug In. Plugging in to life with God — place, time, etc.
  3. Bread and Wine. “Who are your companions that you journey with?”
  4. Puzzle Piece. “How have you been able to contribute your piece of the puzzle to beautify the world?”
  5. Shoes. “What opportunities has God given you to be in other people’s shoes?”
  6. Downward Steps (Downward Mobility). “How have you served with the privileges and resources that you have?”
  7. A Clock. “Where have you seen God at work in your job, ministry, and life?”

The most formative part of the book for me was from page 87. Tom there wrote about his community’s journey through “church detox.” His list of “antioxidants” is a list many I know would resonate with. I’ve written the list down as inspiration. He wrote,

  • follow Jesus and not the pastor
  • seek the kingdom of God above all else
  • exercise daily disciplines to become more like Jesus
  • as a family member share my life with others
  • get to know the text and live into it
  • realize that I am a missionary and have a full-time calling
  • respect the wider church over geography and time
  • confess our brokenness and journey toward wholeness
  • give sacrificially, especially money and time
  • reach out to the poor [make a life with the poor]

Tom Smith has written a great book that will spark great conversation on intentional disciple formation. I am inspired and I suspect many more will be too.

A Thin Violence in the Desire to Influence?

A Thin Violence in the Desire to Influence

The way is down, friends. This way to freedom.

What does it mean to “influence?” The dictionary reads: “…the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.”

How do we look at it, at the process of influence? What’s our first visual image? Someone with charisma and someone with a little less than? Someone with a good answer and someone with a little less than? Someone with _______ and someone with a little less than?

Is it the “strong” making something happen in the “weak?”

But, friends, what is “strong?” What is Continue reading

A Renovation of the Heart and True Christian Obedience

Tonight, a thought can’t be shaken away. I wonder: “What drives me to do things – especially the stuff I look back on and have to ask, ‘really? Why did that seem like a good idea?’”

As I lay there staring at spackling, an old reminder came to mind. It’s comes from a book with a forgotten title and page number. My reminder came like this:

The depths of a person’s soul, their very heart, is what God is after. Some may say that talking about “getting a good heart” is tricky, but that’s not right. God desires to form for himself a people (a person: me) to be the kind of person who naturally expresses a new kind of life. Actions and words (and inactions) all find their origin in the heart. What I do comes from the depths within (or the lack thereof).

Some say you can have a good heart but not right action. That’s not true either.

Others will say, “Don’t worry about the heart, just do the right action.” I counter: a married man ought not just think about the right gift to bring his wife, but also the reasons and desires for bringing it. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to arrive at that elderly age when you just know what to say and do and bring for your spouse – it’s like the deliberation has faded and you’re just that in love?

At that, how do we become the kind of people who live and express the kind of life God wants to nurture within us? I think it takes practice, it takes exercise, it takes surrender. I think it starts by looking at Jesus and imitating him. As we practice along (best done with others) I believe (and I’ve sensed in myself) a renewed ease with some elements of living the kind of life God desires to have within us.

So, we don’t just aim to do the things Jesus said; we aim to be the kind of person inside and outside that Jesus was and is. And, I think at the core, this is a grace thing. It’s not something I can create within myself. My own imitations will most likely be glorious failures a lot of the time. My imitations are not the goal, my character is (yet, like I wrote above, imitation shapes character and character shapes us toward a more true imitation in time)

…and in this, I think (and I hope) that God works in such an unfortunate garden as my soul. I hope the same for others too.