I have spent part of this week with a group of students from Presbyterian seminaries in Canada. They are required to attend what’s called a Guidance Conference at some point in their theological education in order to be assessed in terms of their understanding of their faith journey, call to ministry and gifting.
It was 25 years ago now that I went through one of these conferences as a candidate for ministry, and I remember how nerve-wracking and grueling it was to be watchedat all times, so I’ve done my best when participating in these conferences to be friendly and not to appear like Big Brother.
What these conferences remind me of, writ large, is that the Christian life is not just about being informed. It’s also about being formed.
It’s possible to shovel all manner of knowledge into people’s minds, and it may make them smart, but unchanged. There must be an aspect of formation, whether in theological education for pastors or ongoing discipleship for congregants. After all, you could get an axe murderer to memorize the Psalms and the Westminster Confession of Faith and that person, without the involvement of the Holy Spirit, would still be an axe murderer.
The Bible tells us, “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12.2, NLT).
It is God who does the transforming, not us. We do well to position ourselves for transformation, but the work of transforming belongs to God.
When God works to transform us, it changes our way of thinking, and therefore our way of living. Faith not just about knowledge, but about character development.
We don’t send congregants to things like Guidance Conferences, but there are all kinds of opportunities that exist for God’s people to develop their character in the Lord: conferences, podcasts, videos, online sources like RightNowMedia, as well as small groups and Bible studies at church, along with regular participation in worship.
September starts tomorrow. It’s a time for fresh starts. Why not determine that you will make time to prioritize your spiritual formation this fall?