This past Sunday (February 2, 2020), I preached on the need for Christians to passionately pursue the way of Jesus in our every day lives. (Listen here. Don’t forget to subscribe!) Simply put, we must live as disciples of Jesus or, as Dallas Willard puts it, apprentices of Jesus. An apprentice forms their lives around the teachings of their master. An apprentice of Jesus will reorganize their lives around the teachings of Jesus.
The American (Western) Church has not done a very good job of making disciples or working at Spiritual Formation. By and large, the institutional church is about keeping the institution functioning rather than calling, equipping, and releasing apprentices in the world to do the work of Jesus.
While there are many books available about Spiritual Formation and what it really means to be a disciple/apprentice of Jesus- there are two that I’ve read in the last six months that have really spoken to me and I think will meet many people where they are- especially if you’re just starting out as an apprentice of Jesus (but they are for the long-time follower of Jesus who need to refocus/reshape their lives)
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: (John Mark Comer)
Comer is a pastor in the Pacific Northwest and an author. He was once a megachurch pastor who “demoted” himself because he saw how the pace of his life was conflicting with his spiritual practices. The title of the book comes from a Dallas Willard quote to John Ortberg when they were talking about spiritual formation. Ortberg had asked Willard how to be the “me” he wanted to be.
Willard: “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.
Ortberg: “Okay, what else?”
Willard: “There is nothing else. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”
Comer introduces the reader to four spiritual disciplines (practices) that are intended to help us slow down and acclimate to a slower rhythm so that we can hear from God and be lead by the Holy Spirit. The four practices are Silence and Solitude, Sabbath, Simplicity, and Slowing. If you are looking for a primer on Spiritual Disciplines that can help form our spirit- check out John Mark Comer’s book.
The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose in an Age of Distraction (Justin Whitmel Earley)
This was one of the books I read early last year and it got me excited. Earley, like Comer, talks about the distractions that are in our world and practices (read: Spiritual Disciplines) that he and his family began observing to help them connect with one another and with God. It is immensely practical when it comes to things like cell phones, taking time off, and beginning and ending each day with prayer.
As a result of this book, I have deleted certain apps off my phone that were wasting a lot of time; I lock the remaining apps out during “family time” so that I can attempt to be more present when I am at home. I previously have made the decision NOT to receive any notifications on my phone and to leave it on vibrate. It has decreased my need to check my phone every time it dings! Ideally, my phone works for me, not the other way around.
This book would be helpful for anyone who wants to reevaluate how we spend our time and what we are being formed by.
Interested in Spiritual Formation? If you’re part of Avenue United Methodist Church or live in the Milford area, I’d love to talk with you about your own spiritual formation! The journey of apprenticeship is not the work of a Lone Ranger! Leave a comment below and we’ll get started!