Introduction to our Formation Practices
As All Saints mission statement says, the three essential means by which we seek “to live as the Body of Christ in Austin for the world” are worship, spiritual formation, and service. Worship is our primary corporate action and the place where our spiritual formation begins. And what begins in worship is carried out in our day-to-day lives throughout the week. As a church we have adopted ten practices to form our "day-to-day" by which we individually and collectively “work out our own salvation” (Phil. 2:12) that God the Father might “conform us to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29).
Ten Spiritual Formation Practices
Word & Prayer
In the words of Eugene Peterson, "God speaks to us; our answers are our prayers." Being told just to "read Scripture and pray" is a little bit like being told by the doctor to exercise - half the battle is just getting started. So All Saints has put together a few simple ways to start incorporating this first practice in your daily life. Find them here.
The Christian journey isn’t walked alone, but in community with other Christians. We’re not called to love, serve, know people in general, but specific and particular ones. It’s in community that we mature and develop as Christ-followers with family, friends and small groups. This community should most naturally be tied to one’s local church community.
The Christian life is complex. Scripture is complex. We need to learn from others. Christian theology is a wonderful resource, friend and guide. Study occurs both in individual and group settings.
A spiritual director is a coach, guide, friend. It’s someone that’s probably a little bit further along on the journey who can help lead through all the twists and turns. It’s someone that you intentionally meet with every 6-8 weeks for prayer, direction, support. It’s someone who listens, cares, questions and counsels. It’s someone you trust and respect and are willing to follow. It doesn’t have to or need to be a clergy member. Often, the best directors are not clergy.
We're reminded every night that we are finite creatures in desperate need of rest. We’re reminded more fully of that every week. But in a technological world, rest is especially hard to come by. We can work late into the night; e-mail, texts and calls seldom stop and our work hours are varied and blurred. But, we still need to have rhythms, patterns and habits, where we put aside our work and rest so that we might be recreated and re-energized. The ancient Christian practice of Sabbath is a much-needed one today.
This is a little longer version to the daily and weekly rest. It’s a little longer version of daily reading and prayer. It’s an extended and intensified time to listen, learn, pray, be silent, be alone and/or with others and enjoy God’s amazing grace.
Tithing & Sacrificial Giving
Tithing or sacrificial giving is a tangible reminder that we're not ultimately to live self-directed lives, but God and other-directed ones. Sacrificial giving is a discipline to make us more generous, joyful, caring and gracious people. The paradox of Christianity is that we are more blessed, satisfied, and fulfilled when we give, rather than when we receive. It was true of our Savior and it’s true of us. The goal of sacrificial giving is to more fully display the generosity of Jesus to us in our giving to others.
Fasting & Moderation
We were not made for excess or over-indulgence in anything (other than God!), but to enjoy all things in moderation. One of the ancient practices of the church is to abstain from food (but also other things) for a season, so that we might more fully hunger for God. Learning how to deny ourselves is hard. But learning to say no and to live moderately is vital for those called to "take up our cross" and follow Jesus.
We were made for friendship, relationship and community. True community isn’t only receiving from others, but also giving to others. Hospitality is an ancient practice of loving neighbors, strangers, friends in real and tangible ways. It’s a way of opening up our lives to others and to God through them. It’s a way of embodying the grace that we’ve received- God’s lavish, loving, warm welcome.
Just as Christ came not to be served, but to serve, so we also should seek to serve others in real and practical ways. Christian service isn’t ultimately about a to-do list, but an attitude, stance, posture. The apostle Paul opened most of his letters with these words, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ.” The Greek word he used, was that of the lowest servant. This meant that for Paul, everybody was above him- children, slaves, barbarians. He was ready and eager to serve because he knew he had been served by Christ. Paul’s posture is much-needed today, as we seek to become more like Jesus, the true servant of all.