Posted by: whereintheworldismike | December 25, 2014

The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Formation, Pt 5

Mike on KK canopyThis pic was taken after I taught “Disciple Multiplication and Church Growth” at Sabah Theological Seminary in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Dr Chen Lipsiong wrote a very nice endorsement for my book after I taught a lot of the content during the 2 week intensive. I now receive emails from STS friends that indicate they really took to heart some of the challenges they received during my tenure there. May we all be as faithful as these dear brothers and sisters in Christ who face daily danger as the longtime tolerant government welcomes radical Islamist boat people who are changing the political and religious landscape of the country. May we all be faithful no matter what until Jesus makes all things right.

The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Formation, Pt 5

Along with an overemphasis on cognitive disciple development, many churches exhibit a culture of distrust regarding spiritual experience. Jesus’ own ministry often focused on rewriting the spiritual assumptions and scriptural interpretations of God’s people (John 5:39-47). We must stand ready to be corrected in our theology as we encounter the living God through his Spirit. Of course, the Spirit will never contradict the written Word of God, but he may contradict our interpretation of a particular portion of the written Word.

I have found it necessary to “detox” Christians desiring spiritual formation who have spent much time in churches that discount the value of spiritual experience. Exercises such as “lectio divina,” listening with the ears of the heart, Bible study that incorporates silence, meditation, listening, and recitation of scripture in addition to just reading and analyzing helps “reprogram” believers who have unconsciously come to believe that spiritual growth is attained by Greek word studies and other exegetical exercises alone.

The prayer journaling method outlined in Sarah Young’s books[1] is also helpful in enabling the unaccustomed to “hearing” God’s voice for many spiritual formation practices. Reflecting on the previous day, waiting on God to reveal burdens to release and sins to confess, and then journaling the result can deepen one’s fellowship with God and free him or her to follow Christ more closely. This is spiritual formation that effects the ethical, emotional, and relational development of disciples.[2]

Releasing Prayer Ministry was developed by Evergreen Baptist Church of the San Gabriel Valley. It is interactive prayer that is conducted in groups of three and has been used on a number of continents to develop more intimacy with God in disciples, and increase their joy regardless of their circumstances—including persecution or serious health challenges.

Releasing Prayer Ministry (RPM) facilitates changes in the heart of disciples—a key requirement of genuine spiritual formation. There are other prayer tools for character change in disciple development, but this area of spiritual formation in general has been neglected for far too long in too many churches resulting in “top-heavy” believers who display no practical usefulness in fulfilling the Great Commission.[3] Techniques, and strategies can provide a semblance of transformation but it is only superficial. On the following page is a simplified flowchart of RPM which has been used for heart change in disciples and pastors in the United States, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Mongolia, Cambodia, and soon in Cameroon, Nigeria, and Lebanon.[4]

The following flowchart illustrates that a good first step in transforming interactive prayer in groups of three is a prayer of appreciation (Figure 6 in Exponential Culture, page 53).

RPM flow

This is where the prayer recipient asks God to remind him or her of a time when they were so appreciative to have Christ in their life. This always brings a smile onto the face of the one who receives prayer. Such appreciation opens the heart of the prayer recipient to hear more from God. It creates a hunger for more from God and prepares the prayer recipient to progress in the Releasing Prayer process.

Next comes a prayer for revelation from God (John 10:3,4,14-16). The prayer recipient in the group of three that also includes a prayer facilitator and an intercessor asks God to reveal to her any sins to confess (James 5:16; 1 John 1:9) or burdens to release (Matt 16:19; 18:18). This type of interactive prayer has been transformational to ministers who were holding back from something God was inviting them to participate in, to cancer sufferers who found newfound hope and strength to be part of God’s work in the world even though their cancer remained, and to bereaved housewives in northeast Japan who felt God’s great compassion for them that drew them irresistably to Christ their Savior.

The Christian who has been trained by lectio divina Bible study or reflective, interactive journaling will be accustomed to hearing God’s still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13). The prayer recipient will know if what they hear or sense from the Lord is a sin to confess or a burden to release, but in either case, humble response to God’s revelation will result in joy and peace (Rom 14:17; 15:13).

Finally, a prayer is said for the prayer recipient to hear what God thinks about the prayer recipient. This is always very encouraging and usually brings a lot of joy and excitement. This last prayer is particularly transforming and can help recipients overcome many health or other overwhelming concerns that keep them from reflecting Christ’s glory in their own context.

[1] Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling: Enjoying peace in his presence. (2011)

[2] Wilson, Michael L. Exponential Culture: Believer Transformation, Disciple Multiplication. (2014)

[3] Barna, George. Maximum Faith: Live Like Jesus: Experience Genuine Transformation. (2011)



%d bloggers like this: