Two Stabs at a Model of Formation – Good Try, But They Miss the Mark
Two very different models of formation have appeared on my laptop or tablet lately. Both had good points to make, but neither seemed to me a complete model of what formation in the 21st century needs to look like. Derek Olsen, in an Episcopal Café article, suggests that the resources needed are already available from a plethora of sources and simply need to be vetted, perhaps by a volunteer. Diana Butler Bass, in her excellent book Christianity After Religion, proposes mentoring relationships, whereby formation would take place one-on-one.
I am all in favor of online resources – I write them frequently. But these resources are simply tools of formation. Someone has to come up with the content, and content might be terrific; it might not be. Simply vetting the content will not make what we need for formation magically appear on the screen. One-on-one tutoring and mentoring is extremely useful, but collaborative learning and working and listening within groups is, I think, as much or perhaps more valuable. Thus, neither of these proposals provides direction for the ministry of formation or address current challenges and opportunities in this important work.
Formation as Gardening
Mature Christians don’t just happen; somebody has to nurture them, tend to them, help keep them watered, and then even help figure out what to do with the fruits of the harvest. Spiritual formation is akin to cultivation of our gardens – planting seeds, waiting patiently for sprouts to appear, keeping young plants well watered and fertilized, then watching in awe as the harvest feeds others.
Formation is cultivation of the human soul. Formation is growth. Formation is cultivation of our congregations towards the full stature of Christ to provide abundant life for all.
So . . . how does our garden grow? Read more…