How God shapes us
Christian formation has many possible sources
To know God, where should we look first? The Bible? The church? We could find God there. Or, we could look at the world around us, wherever we are.
When we seek God, we let God shape us into someone who better reflects God’s image. We grow into closer followers of Jesus.
We do what’s called Christian formation.
If we belong to Mennonite Church USA, we work on our denomination’s top priority when we let God mold us. Delegates at the biennial convention in Pittsburgh last summer identified Christian formation as the church’s leading goal.
MC USA is promoting a Scripture-centered approach to forming better Christians. It is encouraging congregations to take part in a “Twelve Scriptures Project.” People would identify the dozen Bible texts or stories that are most important to them.
The process of choosing biblical top-12 lists could begin with households and trickle up to Sunday school classes, congregations, conferences and the denomination.
Terry Shue, MC USA director of leadership development, predicts transformative results, “giving us clarity on scriptures that are descriptive of who we are and prescriptive of who we are becoming.” Shue outlines the “Twelve Scriptures Project” in MC USA’s new online newsletter, On the Way.
Among tools for Christian formation, Scripture is essential. But no two people’s journeys of faith are the same. God will shape each of us in different ways. Scripture will not be the starting point for everyone.
In recent lectures at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, professor Marlene Kropf described a person she called “James” trying to overcome his difficulty connecting with God. For James, “awareness of God doesn’t come by traveling straight to the center,” she said. Instead, his Christian formation begins with the ordinary ways his senses perceive the world and with an inner awareness of his desire for God.
What James sees in the outside world and feels in his inner self are his primary sources of revelation. Only then, Kropf says, do his experiences of secondary revelation — Scripture and the church — come to life.
This is the difference between general revelation and special revelation. Special revelation is found in specific places: the words of Scripture or the singing of a hymn in a congregation. General revelation is God’s communication to all people at all times and places. We see it in the created world. We sense it when we feel a spiritual yearning or a pang of conscience.
Rom. 1:20 describes general revelation: “Ever since the creation of the world, God’s eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things God has made.”
Scripture can shape us into the form God intends. It is indispensable to a life of faith. But Christian formation has many possible sources. It begins anywhere we see or feel a divine spark. It grows into action, when we show the love of Christ or see others live the way of love.
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