Our church is committed to being formed.
Now, that's not how our original vision statement read. It originally read "A Christ-centered community committed to forming disciples..." That's good, but it misses a good deal of the point.
You might ask, "Why is transformation important? I thought we were in the business of "saving souls." Well, we certainly believe conversion important, but more and more, I'm beginning to see conversion as more of a process than an event.
In Scripture, salvation is bigger than baptism. There are three important emphases of salvation in Scripture:
1) We have been saved at the cross and the resurrection.
2) We will be saved when Christ returns to the earth.
3) But there's a third emphasis we rarely focus on. We are being saved!
Acts 2:46-47: "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number those who were BEING SAVED."
1 Corinthians 1:18: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are BEING SAVED it is the power of God."
Salvation has a past, present, and future sense to it. It's rooted in an historical event, waiting on a second coming, and in process in those who have chosen Jesus as their Lord. It's this present sense that spiritual formation focuses on.
The Western Church has thought in either/or terms for so long. And when it comes to spiritual formation there are basically two camps:
One camp says that we are the main actors in our transformation. It's as if we're saved by what we do and changed by the actions we take. You have to do more, work more, and become perfect on your own. Have you ever heard this message before?
The other camp says we can do nothing to jump start our transformation because it's all the work of God. He's elected and predestined certain individuals for salvation and transformation.
I'd like to take a both/and approach. Transformation is the work of God. As much as we want to think we can "pull ourselves up by our own spiritual bootstraps," it takes the fruit of the Spirit to develop an authentic life of faith. God is certainly involved in the process. A caterpillar can’t become a butterfly by behaving like one. Nor can butterflies give butterfly lessons to caterpillars. People cannot change themselves, and spiritual leaders cannot do it for them.
But on the other hand, it's also not a passive process. Christian history is full of people who have submitted themselves to the spiritual disciplines and have seen God's grace at work through them. We have to be committed to spiritual formation as a process or we won't be changed.
In other words, “Only God can bring about change, but he never chooses to do it alone!”
So, I like our statement now much better. At the Littleton Church of Christ, we are committed to being formed.