Spiritual formation happens in community. As we long to know and follow Jesus and be formed into his likeness, we journey with those who share this longing. God is calling the church to be a place of transformation. Here we struggle to fulfill our calling to love. Here we learn to attend to the invitations of God’s Spirit. Here we follow the presence of God in our midst. Spiritual community is the catalyst for our transformation and a sending base for our mission of love to the world.
Christian spiritual formation occurs best in a community of faith. While a community of faith often refers to a church, it may also refers to a small group of Christians gathering together for bible study and fellowship, an accountability group or a few regular friends chatting over coffee. James Wilhoit emphasizes in Spiritual Formation as if Church Matters that “spiritual formation is the task of the church.”
A community of faith has two roles in Christian spiritual formation. The first role is the role of a nurturing community. A nurturing community contributes to spiritual formation by providing a framework in which individual members are taught about the Word and the traditions of the church, is a safe place to make mistakes, provides skills to deepen the spiritual life, love and care for one another, and share in the joys and sorrows of life events. Its strength is that the community nurtures by using the members’ spiritual gifts.
The second role is that of corporate spiritual formation. Being part of the community itself is transforming. A community is like an organism and it grows and responds to the external world. This is also true of communities of faith. Communities of faith grow, develop and create its own identity. Paul often addresses the churches in the singular, as in his call for the church (singular sense) to put on the armour of God (Ephesians 6:11-13).
In summary, Christian spiritual formation develops best in a community of faith. It is in the context of interaction with other persons that we are transformed into the likeness of Christ. It is in the context of persons-in-community that we become the Body of Christ.