Here are some notes from a session I attended today at Elmbrook Church facilitated by John Ortberg and the MONVEE team. Great stuff. I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience with MONVEE.
Shift in what it means to be a disciple
Jesus’ time: heard what Jesus said/explore Him → admired Him → followed Him
Our day: explore Jesus → admire Him → use Him to get into heaven (the minimal entrance requirements for getting into heaven when we die)
We’ve lost the intrinsic connection between Jesus’ message and real life, between hearing the message and becoming a follower/disciple
How do we make following Jesus – that kind of life – available to people right now?
What exactly is spiritual formation? It’s not an ‘extra credit’ program that Henri Nouwen-loving, lectio divina-doing, esoteric people
- Outer you – kinds of things you do, what you eat, etc being formed all the time
- Inner you – kinds of things you think, feel, choices, habits being formed all the time
Everybody is being spiritually formed all of the time
Romans 12 – ‘do not be conformed to the world
1. There is a God – it is not you.
2. Your life is not your project – your life is God’s project – you are God’s handiwork (Ephesians 2:10)
3. We live in the gap between who I am now and who God wants me to be – a lot of people think that we should bridge this gap by our extreme human effort; we understand that we’re forgiven by grace, but then think we are to be transformed by works; we need to grasp: how do I live by grace; grace is larger than the unmerited forgiveness of sins; creation is an example of grace; I mainly experience grace; “We think of grace as something that sinners need. The reality is that saints burn more grace than sinners ever will.” – Dallas Willard
God | Sin | Me
Me – Current | | ME 2.0 – God’s Version
4. Living in grace is actually learned behavior. The problem is that we get into a vicious cycle. It becomes a spiritual cul-de-sac instead of a conduit for getting in touch with grace.
John 7:38-39 – “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flowing from within.’ By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believe in him were later to receive.”
- ‘thirsty’ = unsatisfied desires
- ‘living water’ = where there is water, there is life; Garden of Eden
- ‘flowing from within’ = KJV, ‘the belly’ – the core of our being
- Ps 46:4 – ‘there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God’
Rev 22:1-2 – ‘river of the water of life [in Jesus]…down the middle of the great city [for all]…yielding its fruit every month [constant]…leaves of the tree for the healing of nations [for all peoples]’
“Our flourishing is never about us…marriages start to change, neighborhoods start to change, cities start to change…then it becomes this cosmic vision”
Spiritual formation is primarily the forming of our spirits by The Spirit. What can we do to cut ourselves off from the Spirit?
How do you gauge the well-being of your spiritual life?
- We tend to measure it in terms of devotional practices – in Jesus’ day that was the Pharisees – OOPS!
- D. Willard:
- Am I growing more or less easily irritated these days?
- Am I growing more or less loving these days?
- We have to help people individually find their way of becoming God’s best version of ‘me’
- “Disciples are hand-crafted, not mass-produced.”
- Look at the Scriptures for how God approaches everyone uniquely
- Not everyone flourishes through the same spiritual practices
- The main measure of spiritual life is not devotional practices…it’s just our lives.
- Demands freedom and experimentation
- Leveraging technology to give people ‘discernment’ in spiritual life
- Initial assessment: temperament, learning style, spiritual pathway to God, season of life you’re in, what is your signature sin
- Develops profile that helps you make a plan for spiritual growth
5. As you grow spiritually, you will always look like YOU…a flourishing version of you or a languishing version of you; you will not look like somebody else; it’s like an old motorcycle that gets restored, not an acorn that turns into a rosebush
6. Our world is not likely to receive a gospel of transformation from un-transformed people; we think that if certain circumstances get worked out, then we’ll be alive…if I seek the Kingdom and the presence of God here and now more than anything else, then I’ll become the best version of myself possible and the other things will work out (maybe not how I want)
Q & A
Q: What did you know now that you didn’t know 10 years ago about spiritual formation?
A: Dallas Willard’s books and words have been most influential for him … spiritual practices are a means to and end, not the end in themselves
Q: What about accountability?
A: Accountability is not enough; we need a vision for what we can become. People have to want to be open, honest, and seeking life. MONVEE enables not only self-evaluation, but enables others to (confidentially) evaluate others