Monday, June 24, 2002

spiritual friendship

In the faithmaps discussion group we've spent a lot of time discussing how the postmodernism-influenced criticism of an inordinately modernized evangelicalism effects spiritual formation. Many now see that mere information transfer is not the exclusive, omnicompetent modality of spiritual formation. I addressed this a bit in an article Next-Wave published some months ago. Lately I've been thinking that perhaps part of our challenge in spiritual formation (whether it be described as "discipleship" or as a mentor/protege relationship) is that we've lost some of foundational skills of mere spiritual friendship. In other words, the art of spiritual relationship is a prerequisite of discipleship. I started to ask the 'mappers about what they would consider to be "core behaviors" of spiritual friendship when it occurred to me to review the reflexive pronoun translated "one another" in the NT. And so I surfed to the Bible Gateway and did a search on all instances of the phrase "one another" that appears in the NT. I put the results in this little chart.

A few of these injunctions jumped out at me as possible candidates for "core behaviors."

accept one another - Romans 15:7

As I mentioned in the spiritual friendship article mentioned above, Christ's command that we love one another as ourselves is predicated on our loving ourselves. We help others to do this by accepting them as we are accepted by Christ. When we model this for others, we help them to believe that maybe God accepts them too. This security enables altruism.

Serve one another - Gal 5:13

In this way, the spiritual friendship directly models God's love towards the other in transpropositional mode.

encourage one another - 1 Thess. 5:11

The spiritual friend believes in the other sometimes more than they believe in themselves. In fact, the spiritual friend is believing in the Spirit's work in the other. It is a belief in God. (See also Phil. 1:6; 2:13; and 1 Thess. 5:23,24)

fervantly love one another - 1 Peter 4:8

The spiritual friendship is a passionate relationship. It is motivated by the intense love we have for the Lover Who gave his all for us. We are constrained to love others because God loved us. (2 Cor 5:14, Darby)

pray for one another - James 5:16

The Holy Spirit is the One who teaches (1 John 2:27). If He does not teach in the spiritual friendship, no learning occurs.

Prayer is necessary for spiritual change, though God can do anything he wishes

confess your sins to one another - James 5:16

Surely, vulnerability is critical to a natural spiritual friendship; teachability is also implied.

stimulate one another to love and good deeds - Heb. 10:24

We must be ever encouraging others to be missional in their orientation.

On spiritual formation ministry team I co-lead at Grace church, we are going to spend a lot of time trying to create a culture of spiritual friendship among the facilitators. We'll certainly have procedures and policies, yada yada yada. But I believe that we will only move folks to love God and others in practical ways if we make the capacity of spiritual friendship part of the DNA of everyone in our local church. It needs to be as natural as breathing. This kind of culture will enable us to be effectively missional.

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