4 Critical Questions in Formissional Life
If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you notice I use the term "formissional" on a regular basis. You may wonder what that means and if so then the best way I can sum it up is to have you read my e-book (it's FREE, did I mention that?) "The Jesus Rhythm." The best summary I can give is this:
The formissional life is the life that is being formed through retreat with God to advance toward the rest of the world with the message of His Kingdom.
Too often we stay in prayer, meditation, fasting - internal, personal disciplines - and never move toward those who were and are most important to Jesus Christ. I believe that within this formissional life there are 4 diagnostic questions we need to ask in order to keep ourselves moving in the right direction as we advance and retreat.
1. Who am I becoming?
Paraphrasing Dallas Willard, we are all being formed spiritually. We are either being formed into Christ by engaging in the path of discipleship, or we are being formed by the ethos and customs of the world we live in. Formissional life is built on the foundation of personal and community change via the transformation of how we see the world (Romans 12:2) so that we are constantly becoming those who love God with everything we have and who love our neighbor as ourselves. We have to run a constant assessment - am I more or less forgiving than before? Am I more or less content with the "benefits" (Psalm 103:1-2) of God than before? Am I more or less irritable than I was before?
2. Where do I live?
Formissional life requires we know our context, our community, our missional field. As we are being formed, part of the work of formation happens when we engage the unique people and unique challenges those people represent in our lives. Hugh Halter and Matt Smay indicate that living a missional life begins with forming friendships in your context. As we become more like Christ, we will be driven out of our transformed hearts into our yet-to-be transformed communities. How has your inner life change (peace, healing, contentment through Christ) affected your context? How many friendships have you made and how are you living like Jesus in those friendships?
3. Where do disciplines meet needs?
I have made mention of this before, but our spiritual disciplines* (prayer, Scripture, fasting, etc.) should inform our spiritual practices (hospitality, truth-telling, pursuing justice) and therefore meet the needs of those in the context where God has placed us. This is where the interrelatedness of what we do in quiet times with God and what impact we have on the public visible world begins to become clearer. We are never to engage in spiritual formation through intentional discipleship to Jesus simply for self-improvement. As a matter of fact, that would be completely AGAINST the nature of following Jesus. Instead, our inner work needs to feed our outer work so our focus should be on Which spiritual disciplines and spiritual practices prepare me to live out the Gospel in my context?
4. Where is God moving me?
As someone who practices spiritual direction with individuals, I can't walk away from the formissional questions without making a comment on God's direction. If the formissional life is becoming like Christ so that we may be sent out to others in a healthy, Kingdom-in-motion manner, we will need to have a consistent and clear way of listening to God. Books such as Dallas Willard's Hearing God are helpful in getting our heads around the ideas, but having a director or group of people you can turn to in order to objectively discern God's direction through the narrative of your life is critical. Asking the question regularly of Given my story and my experiences and the context in which I'm planted, what is God preparing for me that I may enter into? Having another person, a wiser and objective individual to help us pray and talk us through the various ideas involved in hearing from God will bring us fully into the beauty of this formissional life.
I pray that you spend some time with these questions and listen to where God may be stirring you to move today.
(*My thanks to Richard Peace's book Noticing God for the distinction between spiritual disciplines and spiritual practices. A review will be out on Wednesday.)