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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What's a Spiritual Formation Catalyst Anyway?

While I have not been asked this question yet, I seem to enjoy answering questions no one is asking. That way I know I have things to say from time to time.

Here's one: why do I refer to myself as a Spiritual Formation Catalyst? Why not just Counselor, Counseling Pastor or Spiritual Director? Those titles have meaning readily attached to them for most people. Why be obtuse or weird about it?

Well. the title I chose for my work with imagine/northampton captures, I think, the essence of what I do with people God sends my way for help. It is more focused and defining in my mind.

Take the words "spiritual formation," for example. For the Christ-follower, it is the process of having the living heart and mind of Christ forming in his or her heart over a lifetime. In other words, gradually thinking like Jesus,having a heart surrendered to him and resonating with his concerns and convictions in everything. It means caring for what he cares for, and desiring that people "see" him in one's self. even if they would not necessarily characterize it that way.

To be formed in Christ is to be increasingly captivated by him, desiring to be fully transformed to his heart. In short, "Christ living in me," becomes the a person's passionate personal anthem: "For me to live is Christ," . . . . and "I have decided to follow Jesus," matures resolutely into "I will be mastered by nothing, save Christ."

If someone stays the course, by grace and persisting hard work (often in fits and starts), it slowly results in a person being able to say humbly, but with joy, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal.2:19-20) Ultimately, such deep forming ends in a person whose chief pursuit is the reflected glory of the risen Christ in all of life.

Secondly, the word "Catalyst" means "the igniting or accelerating of a change." Because a catalyst is involved, change occurs or occurs more rapidly.

I love that idea . . . . being used by God to ignite growth or transformation resulting in stubborn faith, hope, love and courage in people. I have a great passion for unfettering and freeing people into life as Jesus defines it. And to catalyze spiritual formation in someone is to be witness to a miracle only done by God. Such a miracle heals, enlivens, ennobles and creates life where before there was heart sickness, spiritual entombment, blindness and death. I am both spectator and helper.

When I have been able to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as a Spiritual Formation Catalyst (without that, what I accomplish is mostly gum-flapping), the people have been freed to follow Jesus as a way of life surrendering more and more of themselves. A door has opened to them previously hidden or obstructed. To witness such forming and freeing is a marvel that forms and frees me as I am party to the sheer and audacious goodness of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is like living near a spring of wonder.

So, I am at home with the title I have chosen. It fits me. And I hope I will not miss a thing God has for me in my forming as I am catalyzed by him and those he brings with him to my office. Make it so, Jesus!

2 QUESTIONS FOR YOU: Where is Jesus asking you to surrender to him well-defended territory in your heart to become fully alive in him these days? What holds you back? Think about it and get back to me. I'd really like to know.
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