The most interesting teaching I did recently was a day-long webinar on spiritual formation for Asian leaders. I did this at the invitation of my old friend Chris Leong for MPI (Missions Partnership Initiative). What was interesting was the way this webinar was packaged. When Chris first asked me to do this I said “yes”. Chris is an old friend and spiritual formation is one of my key concerns. After I had said “yes” he came back to me and said that he didn’t want some generic teaching on spiritual formation. He wanted teaching on leadership spiritual formation in the light of key trends in today’s world. He wanted me to teach on the following:
1. Spiritual formation in the age of the internet.
2. Spiritual formation in an age of loneliness.
3. Spiritual formation in an age of consumerism.
4. Spiritual formation in an age of generational divides.
Clearly, all I could manage was to give a primer on the four topics. And I had more knowledge on topics 2 and 4, so I had to do much more work. I had to meditate and reflect on how the four trends affect us and how does one do spiritual formation in the light of those trends. A key verse guided me:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2 NIV)
I was glad that Chris asked me to frame the material in this way. It made a lot of sense, and it furthered my own thinking on these matters.
I would not have thought of spiritual formation in these terms if not for Chris’ input. I asked him how he came up with this framework. He said the Lord had guided him in this direction. And because we collaborated, something better resulted.
This collaboration gave me extra joy because Chris is an old friend. I first met him in 1985. It was my last year in Regent College and his first. The friendship forged then continued throughout the years. We saw each other through joy and pain. We both lost spouses to cancer. That level of shared pain binds folks together in a way that few things can.
Because we are friends, we know each other’s strengths. While I majored more in teaching, writing, and mentoring, Chris was committed to missions, church renewal, and leadership development. We also know each other’s weaknesses and make allowances for one another. We are always encouraging each other. We do not always agree on ministry convictions but that does not affect our relationship. And there is always mutual affection.
We had always wanted to work together and we had helped open doors for ministry for each other wherever we could. But we had never collaborated side by side before this webinar. It gave us both great joy to be able to do so.
At Graceworks we are committed to friendship as a basis for ministry. Friendship takes time to build and not every attempt at friendship works out. But when it does, it makes possible exciting ministry synergy.