The Spirit and Formative Lifestyle Patterns

Notes Outline


Opening passage 

  • Romans 12:2 (NAS): And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.


    1. Lesslie Newbigin’s journey 
      1. In 1936, early in his career, Newbigin moved with his wife to India to do missions in a non-Christian culture. Did basic missional strategy of becoming like the culture in order to reach the culture.
      2. Newbigin returned home 1974 after thirty years to a post world war Europe. 
        1. The culture was much different than when he left
        2. The culture had become post-Christian 
        3. Newbigin realized that the West was now a mission field


    1. Phase 1 culture is a pre-Christian culture.  The teaching and ways of the Jesus have not been introduced or have not affected the way people or society functions
        1. “To survive, the individual must obey the taboos of the gods, through turning to shaman and witch doctors for guidance and protection. The world is a frightening, spiritually charged place.”
        2. Rome early first century 
        3. Modern day India
    2. Phase 2 culture is a culture that has been affected by the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus. The society functions based of Christian/biblical presuppositions and moral teachings at a DNA level, especially affecting the common person’s daily rhythms and actions. It also creates set assumptions about what is intrinsically right and wrong. 
        1. Rome after 4th century 
        2. Western society in general prior to mid-20th century 
    3. Phase 3 culture is post-Christian culture. It is a culture that has been affected by the gospel and teachings of Jesus at a DNA level but then turns from it. 
    4. Post-Christian culture 
      1. It does not simply move on from Christ, back to a pre-Christian paganism, but is instead a reaction against Judeo-Christian values and defines itself against the ways and ethics of the Christian past. 
      2. It is alluring, partly because it offers freedom from the restrictions that a Jesus follower commits to and partly because it preaches a gospel of total self gratification as the pinnacle of existence. 
      3. It still retains many Christian/biblical presuppositions and assumes them to be values intrinsic to reality, justice as an example. It seeks progress and utopian ideals, but “wants the kingdom without the King.” The gospel and biblical ethic has affected it at a DNA level.


  1. Newbigin’s first journey was to a first wave culture that had not yet been formed and shaped by the ethic of the Judeo Christian gospel. To do missions he took on cultural forms in order to reach the culture.
    1. Example is Paul in Athens, spoke in ways of the culture to help culture understand the message. 
    2. 1 Corinthians 9:22 (NAS): To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.
  2. Newbigin left during a period of second culture in the west and returned home to a third wave post Christian culture.
  3. His conclusion was that the West was a new mission field and he and others engaged in the form of missional engagement familiar to them: take on cultural forms in order to reach the culture.
  4. The problem with this approach: the danger in a pre-Christian culture is that we would colonized the culture, the danger in a post-Christian culture is that it would colonized us.


    1. Becoming like the culture to reach the culture— in post-Christianity 
      1. This became the basic method for ministry that so many of us were born or brought into. For the gen x it manifested in trying to make the church comfortable; for the millennial it was: If we just make church cool again, then people will turn back to Jesus. However, it misses the fact that this principle applies to a phase one culture in an attempt to protect the beautiful (and stable) qualities of a culture so that the Gospel can transform it. 
      2. In a phase three culture, to take on the ways of the culture in order to reach the culture is to take on characteristics that are reactions against the teachings of Jesus and are often inherently sin or at least less than proper for disciples. This then becomes what we disciple people into.
        1. Nuance is essential here. I’m not advocating forms completely irrelevant and I’m not suggesting that there’s nothing good and beautiful in modern western culture that Jesus would redeem. My point is to alert us to the reality and to suggest some helpful ways of thinking and of being personally equipped.
      3. Additionally, what many leaders found as they sent people out into the culture to impact it was that instead of the believers impacting the culture, they were becoming more like the culture. And here again is the crux of the issue:

In a first phase culture, the danger is that we would colonize the culture. In a third phase, post-Christian culture, the danger is that we would be colonized by it.

for the third culture is just as evangelistic as the second culture. With its great mission to prohibit anyone from prohibiting, it seeks to propagate its dogma that there should be no dogma. Approaches that are purely based on an attempt at cultural relevance will ultimately fail in the face of the corrosive power of the post-Christian third culture. In the third culture, you can reach levels of blistering hipness, gain position within a key industry, hold an encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture, throw yourself into the great justice causes of the day, and still your belief in the second culture values of faith will see you viewed as beyond the pale.

In light of all these things, we read sobering words from Peter: As obedient children, you must not allow your conduct to be molded by the sinful desires to which you were enslaved when you were still ignorant.

1 Peter 1:14

When we do church these ways we actually participate in the formational force of culture, shaping our people to look like everyone else during the brief time we have with them each week. Additionally we all feel the pull of the culture on us, trying to form us. Many of us have fallen back into old patterns because of these forces.

But in fact the Spirit wants to form us differently


    1. What is formation?
      1. I could be using the word “influence” but instead I prefer the stronger term that actually implies, “being shaped.” The reality is that the Spirit wants to shape us. 
      2. Two ways that we are formed 
        1. Ideologically: we are shaped so drastically by our surroundings in the ways that we think about or perceive the world.  We filter every bit of information through a set of assumptions that cause us to act or interact differently.  These things can actually influence the way we process information given from the Lord. 
        2. Functionally: we are shaped in our abilities to do or not do things. What do I mean? In 2020, I jumped on social media for the first time in a real way. The time spent distracting myself with Instagram and the frequent random phone checks have decreased my ability to focus. I actually think that this is potentially a more serious issue than ideological. Could we be decreasing our abilities to spend focused time in the presence of the Lord? Could we be hindering our abilities to persevere through trials by the constant self indulgence/gratification of Western society?
      3. Jesus said that those who persevere to the end will be saved. To do this we must become resilient disciples, and to do this we have to have somewhat of a properly aligned way of thinking and believing… don’t be deceived.  

We must counteract the formative forces of culture through formative lifestyle patterns.

    1. Three ways to align with the Spirit in His work of forming us. 
      1. The spiritual disciplines 
        1. These things are not ends unto themselves, but are ways of placing ourselves in the position to be formed by the Spirit. 
          1. Meditation, prayer, fasting, study, scripture, silence, solitude, gratitude, celebration, submission, simplicity, worship, guidance, confession. More could be added such as the practice of sabbath.
        2. A resource for this could be, Celebration of Disciplines by Richard J. Foster
      2. Emotional well-being and the journey it takes to get there.
        1. The Hebrew understanding of the human is that we are wholistic beings, not subdivided into different parts that operate independently. Instead we are interdependent creatures: our “spiritual” and “emotional” lives are fundamentally intertwined such that part of our spiritual maturity depends on our emotional maturity 
        2. E.g. Father wounds; ability to navigate inter-relational conflict with health; etc.
        3. Resource: Pete Scazzero’s works such as, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. 
      3. The spiritual gifts at work in a community and individuals 
        1. He, likewise, is the one who “gave gifts,” appointing some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as shepherds and teachers, to make sure the saints are in proper order, to serve the flock, to build up the Messiah’s body, until we all attain to the unity that comes from our faith and from knowing the Son of God, to mature adulthood, to the full height and stature of the Messiah. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried here and there by every wind of teaching, by human cunning, by clever schemes and deceitful tricks. Instead, being sincere in love, we are to grow into a mature union in all respects with the head, the Messiah, from whom the whole body, being joined and held together by every supporting ligament, brings about for its own good, as each part does what it is supposed to do, the body’s growth, so that it builds itself up in love. Ephesians 4:11-16 (BHT)
      4. We must recognize the ways that culture is forming us, where is it gaining inroads to our heart and mind? Part of spiritual formation is cutting things out. 
        1. Is your phone shaping you? Lessen its influence by removing certain apps, taking time away from it.
        2. Is news shaping you? Are you feeling rage rise up in you when certain topics are broached EVEN when you’re not watching the news? These are not the ways of Christ. Remove this from your life, in increments if necessary. 
        3. Are constant noise or distractions shaping you keeping you from being able to slow your mind down and spend focused time with the Lord?
        4. Is your sexual ethic beginning to conform to the opinions of the world? Find the place that the stream of influential is getting in and close it!
        5. Take radical steps! Help those you minister to in this process!
        6. Matthew 5:29 (NAS): If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.


    1. Lesslie Newbigin predicted that the meaninglessness of post-Christianity would give rise to what could be considered a fourth wave culture in which politics would become the new religion. A religious fervor would form towards the politics of the west. 
      1. The political leader is now the one that’s going to fix the mess and move us further towards utopia. This is the unspoken force behind much of the political idolatry that we have seen in the world and in ourselves over this past year. 
      2. We are formed by the life narratives that we believe we are a part of.
        1. An essential element to our spiritual formation is to meditate on the biblical life script, both on the meta, existential level and on the micro, personal level. 
        2. What narrative are you a part of? The story of the politics of Babylon or the story of the politics of a future kingdom that will rule all others? The role of the disciple moving forward will be to live out and proclaim a different live narrative in a non-anxious way within the systems we find ourselves in!

Matthew 28:18 (NAS): And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.