Spiritual Formation - Imitating Christianity

By Stephen R. Phinney

If your church, school or “spiritual leader” starts using the term Spiritual Formation, you might want to prepare an exit plan.

The spiritual formation movement, popularized by emergent leaders Rob Bell and Tony Compolo, teaches that if people practice certain disciplines of mysticism, they can become like Jesus or any other leader of choice.

Recently I went through a series of meetings with a predominate “Christian” educator who was detailing his plan of converting to Spiritual Formation —yet to be revealed to the public. After hearing some of the details, I asked what his definition of spiritual formation was. His response? “It is a simple plan that allows the students to form their own spirituality.” Further discussions revealed that the institute was in need of getting away from negative terms such as discipleship, sinner, repentance, eternal damnation and hell. Even though it appeared that my words fell on “deaf ears,” I explained how there is a MAJOR difference between “Christian Worldview” and Biblical Worldview. And that the first is based on interpretive definitions of the word “Christian”—Mormon, JW’s, Unification, Christian Science, Catholic, Seventh Day, plus another 300 groups, all claiming to be “Christian” but none believe in the indwelling life of Christ in the human body. The 2nd is based on doctrines found in the absolutes of God’s Word—the Bible.

Those who practice Spiritual Formation openly state that a born again experience and having the indwelling life of Christ is not a prerequisite. They further state that phrases like receiving Christ as Lord and absolute Savior are too narrow and restrictive. Herein lies the problem: The individual that God has drawn to the church to confess their depraved state of being a sinner on their way to hell, ends up enveloped in a seeker friendly service that makes him feel good about his sinful state and that God loves him no matter how he acts. They forget that God’s love also includes allowing people to go to hell if they don't choose to respond to His convicting touch. Needless to say, from that day forward, the potential convert is rarely exposed to the “negative” doctrines of the indwelling life of Christ, repentance, rebirth, eternal damnation or the loving judgment of God. Rather, he will be taught techniques and vain philosophies to imitate intimacy with God. One of those techniques most commonly used in the Spiritual Formation movement is meditation, which produces a wellness feeling of euphoria—thus mistaking this feeling for the presence of “god.” And I did say “god” NOT Jesus Christ. Spiritual Formation followers stray from using the name of Jesus Christ. It is a part of their “formation” plan—it simply allows students to form their own god. So many are fooled by this “god” talk. They assume when “god” is mentioned in conversations, lectures, talk shows, books etc.—that they are referencing true Christianity. This, in my mind, is one of Satan’s most cleaver accomplishments to date.

The followers of this movement are building their houses on sand NOT on, and through, Jesus Christ and the absolutes of the Word of God, but rather on this non-confrontive, feel good, self formed religion called Spiritual Formation. This explains why so many teachers of Jesus), or Christian, within their formation plan. They are apt to avoid teachers and preachers who cling to the absolutes of God and might consider them to be harsh, judgmental and condemning. These leaders often reject the “Law being a tutor to lead others to Christ (Gal. 3:24).” My experience is that their bottom-line is usually about prosperity and fame. It is statistically proven that the emergent movement of Spiritual Formation produces many followers and imitators of Christ but FEW actual born-again, Christ indwelt, conservative followers of Jesus. And as a consultant, I know those numbers translate out as recruits and recruits equal dollars.

So there you have it, the difference between a true Christian and an emergent Christ-follower. A person who is a true born-again, has Jesus Christ indwelling them—Jesus actually leading and living through the person from the inside out. And they experientially understand that it is Christ Jesus Himself IN them that gives them the power to walk after the Spirit, which reveals how much they are like Christ. No imitations—only the real deal.