Recap and Introduction
How does God change us into being his Beloved? By his Spirit-Life in us (God’s grace) that works with our faith responses – itself a work of grace – via spiritual practices (our effort). The regular practice of spiritual disciplines is not easy. The devil tricks and traps us to stop us doing them. Our own biggest ‘enemy’ is lifestyle. WE choose our lifestyles, no matter how we explain or excuse it. We are as busy as WE choose! The bottom line is: WE are responsible for our own spiritual growth, no one else. But we can’t do it on our own. We need each other in supportive accountability. Remember “The Golden Triangle of Transformation”? I added “community accountability” to Dallas Willard’s diagram: the Spirit transforms us into Christ’s mind and character via our planned and unplanned disciplines, as we experience and practice them in supportive community.
Proposal for Support & Accountability
I want to cite two examples of being very intentional about one’s spiritual formation and growth. John Wesley and his “Holy Clubs” met weekly for prayer and self-examination, bible study and charity work – up to 15 people per group, later called “Classes”. When they met they asked each other: “how is it with your soul?” They kept each other accountable to the “methods”(spiritual practices) of growth. That is why they became “Methodists”. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox developed the practice of “spiritual direction”, and also “spiritual companions”. The latter was for mutual care and accountability in their spiritual formation.
We learn from Jesus and the Early Church that the smallest unit of “church” is the 2’s & 3’s who meet in Jesus’ name (Matt 18:20). They are the cells that make up the body – the home church and congregation. They exist for relationships of support and accountability, NOT for manipulation and control, nor legalism, nor elitism! They are for love, disclosure, growth and transformation. The David and Jonathan friendship is an example (see 1 Sam 18:1f). These 2 & 3s relationships can be structured. But look for a natural and organic spiritual connection. Ask God to give you one or two such companions in your life journey. Leaders must pray for and guide such connections in their home groups, in ministry teams.
What is the framework we use when we meet in these support-accountability relationships?
We use our basic “Being the Beloved Framework” of Mark 1:17 cf. 1:11. It leads to 5 questions that we need to ask each other in mutual spiritual support and accountability. These questions cover the five key dimensions of our lives: relationship with God, with family, with work and world, with our lifestyle, and with(in) ourselves.
1. Following God: how are you doing in intimacy with God?
(your relationship with God, your devotional life: Word, Worship, Prayer, Holy Spirit)
2. Forming Community: how are you doing in your family relationships?
(blood family as in parents, marriage, children; AND your spiritual family, home group)
3. Fishing World: how is your engagement in the world, your vocation and occupation? (your calling and work life, finances, care for the poor)
4. Fitting Context: how are you doing in your lifestyle and re-creation?
(your rest, physical exercise, pacing yourself, personal interests and hobbies)
5. Freeing Love: how are you doing inside yourself?
(your love-life… i.e. your integrity, sexuality, morality, thoughts, emotions)
And the last question we can ask each other is: have you lied to me in any of your answers? We must give each other permission to ask the hard questions. Do NOT avoid them. Our hearts are “desperately wicked and deceitful above all things!” (Jer 17:9). To “walk in the light” of honesty and regular disclosure (1 John 1:4f) is the best anti-dote against sin and laziness, and it’s the best tonic for spiritual growth in loving support.
How about it? Why not pray and connect with someone weekly, using these 5 Questions?