I’ve honestly never before been told that my interpretation of Scripture was doing violence to the text.
Dave and I went to hear the leader of his denomination speak at his church last night. Since this was sort-of a big deal, they did a nice-ish sit-down dinner beforehand, with the youth group dressed in black and white doing the serving. We sat down with a friend and were joined by two people we didn’t know. It was a little awkward, but everyone was eventually introduced and we made the usual conversation among strangers.
After a few minutes, another man joined us. He needed no introduction as he was perfectly comfortable introducing himself all around the table. Turns out, he was the husband of one of the women we’d been sitting with and the father of the other. He was one of those older gentlemen who make a point to talk to younger people about who they are and what they’re about, and he didn’t waste time asking Dave and I those questions.
When he found out we were graduates of a spiritual formation program, he went on offensive (and, eventually, became offensive).
His point was, basically, “Spiritual formation is well and good, but what are you doing about evangelism?” with the implication that it didn’t matter who we are inside as long as we are converting souls. As Dave and I talked with him more, it became more and more clear that there was no place in his spiritual worldview for someone called primarily to care for the souls of those already saved.
He brought up Bible verses. We countered with others and argued about which text should take precedence given the greater biblical context. Eventually, he brought up the parable of the sower, claiming that the grain of wheat that replicates itself indicates that we must produce other Christians. When I mentioned that his principle of “like producing like” also seemed to apply to Christians with a deeper knowledge of God helping in the production of a deeper knowledge of God in other Christians, he told me I was doing violence to the text.
I can’t explain all of the feelings I felt at that moment and over the next couple of hours as I processed the conversation. But what came out of it is this: I want to offer an apologetic for spiritual formation in the context of a lost world full of people who desperately need Jesus. My thoughts aren’t fully developed yet, so you will see here more a work in progress than a polished treatise, and it may come piecemeal, a bunch of bits here and more later. But in the end, I hope to be able to pull together something that makes sense, has heart, and addresses the issue from a place of deep understanding and compassion.
Wow…that sounds ambitious after I write it like that. Ambitious or not, here I come!
I’d love to have your feedback, both on the project and on any questions you’d like to see addressed.