Perpetual Formation

It’s essential for leaders to give the church body a vision of God continually working in us, even as He works through us. This means that everything we do inside and outside the church is tied to God moving us toward spiritual maturity…

The Scriptures use a variety of words and phrases to emphasize this: be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29); grow up into Him (Ephesians 4:15); allow Christ to be formed in you (Galatians 4:19); be fully mature in Him (Colossians 1:28); be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1); be perfect (Matthew 5:48); be holy (1 Peter 1:15); be blameless (Philippians 2:15); be godly (1 Timothy 4:7); be righteous (James 2:24), and live as Jesus lived (1 John 2:6). Jesus did not command us to follow a code of behavior, and He didn’t give us a simple and trite definition of spiritual maturity. Rather, He said, “follow me” (Luke 14:27); walk in my steps; do as I do; think like I think; value what I value.

The goal of all of these commands is to help people see the importance of becoming Christlike. This is God’s overarching purpose for every Christian, and it should be the intended goal of discipleship…

When we lay this vision in front of people, it reminds them that everything that happens in and through their lives, as well as in and through the church, is part of God working to make us more like Jesus. Without this emphasis, we tend to compartmentalize the work of the church, doing things for God apart from God working in us. We can get caught up doing ministry and works of service to the point that we forget God’s greatest and most desired work is to make us more like Christ.

We separate being from doing.

As a result, we can justify attitudes, minimize relational sin, and go off on tangents while doing the work of ministry. We can hold on to pride. We can be defensive and argumentative. We can enable our control issues or yield to our fears and play it safe. Without maintaining a focus on perpetual spiritual formation…we go on meeting, singing, praying, preaching, and trying to do the work of the church while never addressing the deeper issues that prevent us from maturing in Christ.

Therefore, we must remind people that in the midst of all the exhortations in Scripture and all the good works we are doing, the primary thing God wants to do in us is to make us more like His Son…

Once we make the end goal of Christlikeness clear, we then must work to make it overwhelming. We all need a vision of Christlikeness that is so large we realize we will never fully be like Jesus in this lifetime. We need to be reminded that we still need Jesus as much today as we did when we first came to faith in God. Too often, over time and with age, we can subtly begin to feel God has cleaned us up enough that we’re doing ok. After all, we’re not doing all the foolish stuff we did several years ago, and we’ve obviously matured as a people, so we’re actually doing well.

But is this really the case? When we understand that God’s redemptive work includes not only our doctrinal beliefs and moral actions, but also our inner worlds, then we see that we are still broken, sinful, and desperately need God! This keeps us humble…and God blesses humility.

--from Chapter 9 of Dirt Matters: The Foundation for a Healthy, Vibrant, and Effective Congregation

Next week, I will continue to offer insights from Chapter 9: “Perpetual Formation,” including the seven dimensions of our spiritual lives.