Books written out of the experience and conversation of community are always a treat. When many voices speak to a given topic it provides a rich sense of balance and heightens credibility. The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation is such a book. Birthed out of a series of meetings of a group that became known as TACT (Theological and Cultural Thinkers), The Kingdom Life presents to readers and church leaders a way to think about spiritual formation that goes beyond how to practice the spiritual disciplines.
The fruit of TACT’s labor was to establish the elements of spiritual formation into two sections, process elements and theological elements. They are summarized below:
Element One: The gospel of the Kingdom is the realm of God’s active goodness in forming us in Christ as we follow Him. The way we understand the Kingdom of God is to participate as apprentices of Jesus.
Element Two: Spiritual formation is rooted in relationship with God and one another. It calls us to not only relate to God, but to one another in communities of grace, trust, love, humility, and justice.
Element Three: Spiritual formation into Christlikeness involves an intentional public, personal, and communal commitment to living as Jesus’ disciples who are being transformed into His image in all aspects of our lives as we learn to obey His commands.
Element Four: Spiritual formation is a lifelong pursuit of being conformed to the image of Christ from the inside out and not a matter of external activity alone.
Element Five: Spiritual formation is a continual process of transforming the whole person, including the healing of woundedness and rebellion, by the power of God, not to be confused with mere technique or program.
Element Six: Spiritual formation occurs when God, in his grace, invades the destructiveness of suffering that results from the fall and uses the pain of suffering for his redemptive purposes in His people. Suffering is an agent of God through which He forms us in Christ. (This chapter alone is worth the price of the book!)
Element Seven: Spiritual formation in Christ is a process of growing in Kingdom living and participating in God’s mission. Those who pursue spiritual formation will by necessity become people of mission.
Element Eight: The theology of spiritual transformation emerges from the Trinitarian nature of God—relational, loving, gracious, mutually submissive, and unified in will.
Element Nine: Spiritual formation takes place by the direct work of the Holy Spirit, regenerating and conforming us to the image of Jesus Christ as the Spirit indwells, fills, guides, gifts, and empowers people for life in the community of faith and in the world.
Element Ten: Spiritual formation is based upon the Bible as God’s reliable and authoritative revelation. The Bible guides and informs the use of spiritual disciplines and models of spirituality as they have emerged worldwide throughout time.
Each of the preceding elements becomes the topic sentence of a chapter written by a member of the TACT group. They are well researched, Biblically undergirded, clearly written, and amply illustrated. The book concludes with a helpful Epilogue devoted to describing ways that churches can foster spiritual formation among their congregations without becoming programmatic or legalistic. I would recommend this book to Christians who desire to pursue spiritual formation in a balanced way that goes beyond a contemplative life of devotion in isolation. The strength of the book is its explanation of how spiritual formation works in community and in mission. You can live a life committed to spiritual formation without a moving into a monestary!