Formation Defined

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While “worship” is used frequently in church circles, I find that the word “formation” occurs with much less frequency, although I believe that is starting to change. I do not feel very qualified to make an adequate definition, but will attempt to do so here.

I will actually address formation in two stages, the first being what formation is generally speaking, then I will specifically address spiritual formation.

Formation is something that happens to us pretty much every moment of every day. In fact, as you are reading this blog, something is being formed in you (hopefully something good!) From the television shows we watch to the songs we listen to advertisements, and even who we follow on Facebook and Twitter, what we take in forms who we are. It is our choice to pursue after input that forms us in positive ways. As a simple example, I find that people who feel like the world is always against them prefer to be around people who think the world is always against them. They want to stay formed the way they are. In some ways, we all like to hang out with those who think like us, and then we all continue to form each other into our own images.

Somewhat confusing, but it makes sense, right? (Comment below if you’re lost)

Now, spiritual formation is the act of pursuing after input that forms us in a spiritual way, namely into the image of Jesus Christ. After all, our goal as Christians is to become like Christ as we worship Him. Perhaps the most common method of spiritual formation we think of are the spiritual disciplines, or maybe you were simply taught to pray and have a “quiet time.” The word “discipline” can be scary to some people, so let’s attempt to put it into a gentler light.

These are not my words, but I cannot remember the author at this moment (likely Dallas Willard). When we discipline our bodies (exercise) we beat our bodies into submission in order to gain something (health, weight loss, muscle, etc), but when we engage in the spiritual disciplines, we instead create a space where something incredible can be formed within us. How freeing is that? It is not about a hard task we must work at (although we must all the work to happen), but instead about an emptying of the distractions in our lives to make a space for the Spirit of God! Of course, all of this is the work of God that we are welcome to participate in, but it is not for us to transform ourselves or others.

Hopefully that makes sense. Here’s a fantastic article (much longer than this one) if you would like to delve further into the topic. Spiritual Formation: What it is, and How it’s done by Dallas Willard.

Enter into the conversation below and soon we shall begin to work on a definition of worship formation!