Our church was ‘diverse’ in its best sense. We had people of all socio-economic status, age, able-bodiedness and ethnic diaspora. But this was long before there were books or buzzwords or strategies on what ‘multiethnic’ meant. The gift we offered each other was presence and life and community shaped by the eclectic voices our church offered. That isn’t to say we weren’t without conflict or fault or challenge. But you don’t tend to remember those things as a kid. You remember the youth leaders and the stories. You remember the dancing to Kirk Franklin and the sticky donuts.
I grew up in a neighborhood that was far from affluent. Because much of our youth group came from single parent/both parent-working-around-the-clock homes, it was our youth group that ran much of our kids ministry. We threw the Easter parties and fall festivals, we were the ones producing the vacation bible schools and classes. It wasn’t that the adults were uninvolved or absent, it was just truly a community effort. I think back to my junior high self and wondering about the conversations I had with art teachers and youth workers. I think through the way my youth group hosted and led all our ‘kids ministry’ events. I wonder if I would be where I am today if I hadn’t experienced leadership at such a young age.
And if you were to ask me how to describe my spiritual formation and discipleship, it would include all of these things… I’d tell you about the worship dance teams, the trips to Disney World and yes, even the sticky donuts. ‘Spiritual formation’ is a funny process. It is through the ordinary that we are shaped and called into being. ‘Being’ is not about absence, but presence and Jesus called this act of presence discipleship.
Time is a gift.
Jesus said “Come, follow me.” It was an initiation to learn, to laugh to walk, to cry, to be in His presence. Jesus chose the mundane– while just that– to teaches us that formation and discipleship is in the diligence of the ordinary. Jesus called ordinary disciples… Not the movie stars or the wisest or the Pharisees who had it all figured out (or so they thought). In fact he shunned those who wanted the attention or the power (Simon the Sorcerer). And whenever his all too ordinary disciples started to power-trip he put them in their place. I can only imagine the look on James and John’s faces when they asked Jesus who got to sit by him in power.
The model Jesus gave of spiritual formation was the first church, it was the fellowship of Mary and Martha. It was sharing bread with tax collectors and sinners, it was blessing the lame and healing the blind. Jesus understood that community and discipleship—the livelihood of our spiritual formation– was in our ability to be together. It was the giving and taking of space to become our best selves. It’s calling out the image of God in another; the giving of relationship and the ability to be something more than this world would offer.
And this is the beauty of spiritual formation in the church, the space to learn to be #TrulyHuman — where are all practicing and teaching something. Together we practice the image of God- a triune being that lives in community. Our best spiritual formation takes place over the dishes and dinner, it’s found in the folding of sheets and towels, cups of tea and the ordinary. It’s the spaces we inhabit with one another that is life together. In fact he called us to live ordinary lives in a supernatural way.
Jesus knew and understood that our spiritual formation is just that– process. And it’s by inviting each other to “be” in shared space that formation takes place. It’s the presence we share that welcomes your image of God into a conversation, a thought, a moment. This is why Jesus said when two or three are gathered he is there… It’s the power and the practice of present that is discipleship.
Our spiritual formation is the way of Christ: simple, but not easy.
Photo by: caramela reveulta