That They May Be One: Spiritual Formation and Its Locus in Community
American Christians, as a whole, lack a spiritual maturity that infuses the whole of their lives with Christlikeness. Additionally, Americans suffer from an epidemic of loneliness. These two problems are related. We will demonstrate that American Christians lack spiritual maturity, in part, because they have privatized their faith and made spiritual formation an individual endeavor. Furthermore, we will show that spiritual formation is best located and grounded within a community context.
Humans are social creatures. It is becoming ever more widely recognized that social isolation and loneliness are root causes of much psychosocial dysfunction. Humans do not function well if they lack close, beneficial, face-to-face relationships. Yet in the church we approach spiritual formation as an individual endeavor. We often view community as something desirable but inessential to spiritual growth and formation. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the aim of this work to demonstrate that healthy spiritual formation must be located within Christian community and practiced as a community endeavor.
Chapter One provides a brief narrative illustrating the weakness of pursuing spiritual formation outside of a community context. Chapter Two explores biblical themes related to community, and asserts that to be formed in the image of Christ is to be formed by and in community. Chapter Three surveys two historical movements, Medieval Monasticism and the New Monastic movement, which understood community to be the seedbed of spiritual formation. Chapter Four discusses the wealth of evidence which inarguably demonstrates that loneliness and social isolation are root causes of both psychosocial and spiritual ills. Chapter Five examines cunent trends and cunicula in spiritual formation. And Chapter Six offers suggestions for nurturing spiritual formation within a community context.