Spiritual Formation Part Nine – The Crucible

Crucible

  1. a ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures.”the crucible tipped and the mold filled with liquid metal”
    • a situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new.

A situation of severe trial…. What does severe trial and spiritual formation have in common? Perhaps everything! But severe trial, seriously? Yup, you got it!

How? Why? Because it leads to the creation of something new. As we grow spiritually we become a new creation in Christ. When we become a new creation in Christ it becomes a game changer for all – not just us but for all those in our lives. It’s not just a gift to us but to other’s as well.

So back to the crucible. What might be the one thing that we might consider the crucible in the Christian church? For me, I would say it’s church membership, or as I like to refer to it, church partnership. Why? Because it provides a place of accountability. And if you’ve never been held accountable for your spiritual formation then it could feel like a severe trial!

Accountability isn’t welcomed by most. We’d rather others not know where we are spiritually. And that’s a problem. You see you can go through the christian motions – Life Groups, Sunday School, Revivals, Worship, etc… and remain in a stagnant place spiritually if someone isn’t holding you accountable. Basically this is the Christian version of phoning it in. All show and no go. Now don’t read what I’m not writing. All of these offer wonderful opportunities for spiritual formation – if you’re serious about following through with what’s taught. But there may be no substitute for accountability.

That accountability in the Christian church comes in the form of church partnership. When one partners with the church in the United Methodist tradition one says that will be faithful in their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. When you partner you are saying I give you permission to hold me accountable in these areas.

To quote Richard Rohr, from his book Falling Upward – A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (p74), “A crucible, as you know, is a vessel that holds molten metal in place long enough to be purified and clarified. Church membership requirements, church doctrine, and church morality force almost all issues to an inner boiling point, where you are forced to face important issues at a much deeper level to survive as a Catholic or Christian, or even as a human. I think this is probably true of any religious community, if it’s doing it’s job. Before the truth “sets you free,” it tends to make you miserable.”

The key to church partnership is that you take it seriously and stick with it long enough to, as Rohr notes, that you stay in place long enough to be purified and clarified, so to speak. That means being intentional about your accountability and that perhaps is best done by partnering with the church.

If you decide to consider partnership with the church and take on serious accountability or consider allowing others to hold you seriously accountable for the first time, it might feel like a severe trial.

A situation of severe trial…. What does severe trial and spiritual formation have in common? Perhaps everything! But severe trial, seriously? Yup, you got it!

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