So today I was listening to a book on tape, in this book on tape there was a chapter heading, “Spiritual Formation.” I listened to the entire chapter and guess what? Afterwards I didn’t want to go and empty my mind, burn incense, light candles, chant in repetition or deny the infallibility of the Bible. In fact the authors description of “SPIRITUAL FORMATION” made me want to read my Bible more, spend more time alone being guided by the scriptures to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. He impressed upon me the need to have a consistent devotional time, and that part of Spiritual Formation included being willing to be more generous with my money to the cause of Jesus, particularly the local church…can you believe such heresy? I say tongue in cheek!
At the end of the chapter the thought that came into my mind and started to drive me crazy, “There are so many in our church that would have shut the audiobook off, or closed the book (if they were actually reading it) the moment they heard/saw those words, “Spiritual Formation” and they would have missed out on some great counsel! Why? Because over the last 3+ years many in the Adventist church have taught our people to be scared of words and phrases, like: “spiritual formation,” “liturgy,” and “kingdom growth.” Even “meditation” is being spoken of like all meditation is bad…I sure hope the folk that believe that fallacy never read the writings of Ellen G. White, there are over 800 references of “meditation” or “meditate;” and oh boy they better not read the Bible either, since there are a good thirty times meditation is mentioned in that GREAT book.
Why would I even say that? Because I really believe some would be shocked! They’d be shocked because we don’t teach them to read and to study and to discern truth for themselves, we teach them to be scared of certain words and so many of the sermons I’ve heard say, “Spiritual formation is evil. It is about meditation, and mantras.” And therefore meditation is wrong, even when there is a very good kind of Biblical meditation, but these people don’t know that, all they know is what we’ve told them to be scared of. We’ve taught them to be scared of words, just like the pharisees taught the Jews to be scared of Jesus because He used the words, “I Am.”
In preaching in this manner and writing EXTREME books on this topic not only are we teaching our people to be scared of words, we are also teaching them to be very judgmental.
I was given a CD of a fairly popular and well known speaker amongst Adventists, he is one that frequents many camp meetings. I’d heard him on a couple different occasions and was usually blessed by his messages. Then I received this CD and I listened…what I listened to was fear mongering and a call to judge, not to judge on actions, not to judge on doctrine, just to judge based on words. This preacher was speaking of a pastor of a mega-church and pointing out all the areas he was in error; which by the way, how far have we fallen when we think that is an acceptable topic for a Sabbath morning service? Anyway, he then said this, which blew my mind, “When you hear our preachers (Adventist preachers) use the term ‘Kingdom Growth’ you know they have been under the influence of (name of the Sunday preacher here) and you need to be on guard.” REALLY? REALLY? This semi-well known pastor with at least a moderate amount of influence told a bunch of folk to judge their pastors based on a phrase, “Kingdom Growth.” I’ve been using that phrase as often as I can ever since; yep, there is a rebel in me.
So we’re teaching our people to be scared of words. We’re teaching our people to be judgmental based on phrases. We’re also teaching our people how to be mere reflectors of man’s thoughts, rather than true discerners.
I was at a camp meeting. The evening speaker delivered a wonderful message, but he went on a tangent. In this tangent he began to condemn those associated with spiritual formation (he didn’t give context to this), he just used those catch words of course. But what drove me even more crazy was at the end of this little tangent he said, “that is why we shouldn’t be reading anything outside of Adventist literature.” REALLY? REALLY? I love this man, he has been a blessing in my life, I don’t know him, but I’ve read his books and listened to his sermons. But REALLY? I couldn’t take it so I confronted him afterwards, “How could you say that?” I asked. Well in the course of the conversation he acknowledged we should, and he even quoted Mrs. White referencing her statement about our need to be well read in the literature of the age, and how of course he didn’t mean don’t read anything outside of Adventism (he has a doctorate from a non-Adventist university). I asked him then why he said it, he didn’t have a great answer, something to the effect of wanting to protect the people. That is not protection though, it is dumbing people down. To this man’s credit he corrected the statement in his seminar a few days later and acknowledged that is not what he meant; unfortunately there were only 150 people at his seminar versus the 2000 that heard his original statement.
We’re teaching our people to be scared of words. We’re teaching our people to be judgmental based on phrases. We’re teaching our people how be mere reflectors of man’s thoughts, rather than true discerners.
But maybe most of all we’re teaching people how to miss the good and beautiful truth completely. The pharisees were so focused on all the potential negatives that could happen around the Sabbath day that when someone, Jesus Himself, actually showed up on the scene keeping the Sabbath they way it should be kept…they missed it completely! I worry that we are teaching our people to focus so much on the negative that they may actually miss a lot of good when it is being done right in front of their eyes.
Someone smart in my life said, I’m not sure who said this to me (maybe it was David in our Faster Pastor episode on Christmas), but whoever it was this is brilliant, “Words and symbols only have as much meaning in your life as you allow them to have.”
Our church needs to learn this! The words Spiritual Formation or any others like this only have the meaning that one attaches to them and if we attach all kinds of fear, judgment, and ignorance to them that is exactly the meaning they’ll have in people’s lives.
But maybe some people out there are using those same words and they are doing a great job of teaching about Bible Study, Sacrifice, Prayer, Service, Repentance, Tithing…but our people will never know; cause they’ll close the book the moment they see the buzz words our church has decided to condemn and attach unnecessary negative value to over the last 3+ years.
Lord help us to spend more time teaching people about the beautiful truths of Jesus and in the glorious light of Jesus’ truth maybe we can trust them to be able to discern error for themselves.