I typically don't make broad, bold, general statements in blogs (not intentionally, at least) but I think it's time I make one here.
The process of spiritual formation represents the largest strategic leadership challenge for the local church today - gathered or scattered.
I mean LARGEST.
Missions, evangelism, worship, all the other purposes or pillars are contingent on whether a human being is pursuing that larger vision -
The vision of transformation into Christlikeness.
The vision that being with Jesus, learning to be like Jesus, is the greatest thing that could ever happen to any of us.
I am fully convinced that a great deal of our pastoral crises would evaporate if we were consistent in casting a vision for spiritual formation.
I am fully convinced that a great deal of our leadership vacuums in communities of disciples would disappear if we were all enthralled by the alternative reality created by living with Jesus, learning to be like Jesus.
So how do we do this?
1. Those who influence or lead Christian communities must be fall-down drunk with this vision.
The gathered disciples of Christ need people who are differentiated enough (meaning they can detach from emotional assaults and sabotage in their leadership) to stand out and call people to center their life and purpose in becoming like Jesus in every aspect of life. We only do this if we're headed that direction ourselves.
2. We have to develop a strategy that supports it.
Most people get a little itchy when we put strategy and spirituality side by side. You can definitely overplay one to the exclusion of the other, but the firm reality is that without some kind of plan - some kind of intentional commitment to move in a direction - we typically don't go anywhere. People don't wander into infidelity by accident, that's true, and it is also true that people don't wander into conformity to Christlikeness. We choose it because it's the best thing that could happen anywhere, ever.
3. We need to know that culture impacts and engages - even dismantles strategy.
Business guru Peter Drucker once said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." Culture is formed by what we actually do repeatedly and what we place value on. Strategy consists of what we want to do, reflecting assumptions about where we're going and who we are. That's why it's difficult for plans, strategies, and initiatives to survive in a culture that won't celebrate, support, sacrifice for the values that stand under that strategy.
A culture of spiritual transformation is the only thing that gives us hope in the wilderness of spiritual death, spiritual deformation.
If you are a leader - of a family, of a small group, a missional community, a neighborhood, etc. - where are you taking people? Have you gone their yourself? Can you show them photos from your trip? What's your plan? Can you share it clearly? How is your strategy going to be affected by your culture?
These are the questions that will lead groups and individuals who follow Jesus into that place where we are transformed most deeply and profoundly.