Studies in Spiritual Formation by Peter Lam
In my progress report as National Director of Spiritual Formation in April 2012, I shared my vision of seeing our Wesleyan churches experiencing revival and spiritual growth. In his classic, “The plain account of Christian perfection”, Wesley defines a Methodist as one to whom “God reigns alone; all that is in the soul is holiness to the Lord…. Every thought that arises points to Him, and is in obedience in the law of Christ.” Wesley asks, “What is it to be sanctified?” To this he gave the answer: “To be renewed in the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness”. Wesley disciplined himself in works of piety and works of mercy. He excelled being a homo unius libri (man of one book). I have a lanyard that came from the SPC 2008 Conference. Written on it is the phrase, “Holiness works”. I asked: how does holiness work today? How do I see it happening in the lives of others and in the way Wesley saw it happening?
Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ through the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. It is a process that requires commitment to allow the Holy Spirit to do a deeper work. It is life-long, where God awakens us by His sanctifying grace in an ever-increasing desire for holiness, drawing us to a closer walk with Him. It is transformational where godly behaviour is developed and the fruit of the Spirit becomes evident. The result is that we become the salt and light of the world where the Gospel is lived out as it is being proclaimed.
The spiritual formation curriculum and teaching materials are designed to particularly engage in the spiritual disciplines of holiness. The topics are arranged beginning with an understanding of original sin, Christ’s salvation and the Spirit’s sanctifying work. The topics on spiritual disciplines are designed to develop a deepening desire for holiness. These include journaling, prayer, fasting and devotional reading. There is an emphasis on living out the holy life that finds expression in meeting the needs of a hurting world with the Gospel.
The 12 spiritual formation studies are designed to enable participants to interact with the materials and with one another. The introduction to each of the 12 studies highlights the importance of the topic. Learning objectives are specified in each study. The main body of the study material focuses on life-changing truths with questions to help participants reflect and engage in discussion. At the end of each study is a set of personal applications to enable participants to put into practice what they have learnt.
The study materials show the approach that Jesus often used with His disciples:
- Jesus often impressed upon His hearers the importance of His teachings.
- Jesus focused on life-changing truths.
- Jesus often asked deep probing questions to reinforce understanding.
- Jesus often called for application of His teachings in everyday life.
Material development and trialing
Throughout the development process I was able to trial the materials through God given opportunities to conduct teaching sessions on the disciplines of holiness among the Chinese Methodist churches in Melbourne. I was also invited as a camp speaker in the youth camps in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth; the theme of which was none other than holiness. I am thankful for God’s perfect timing. The common theme in the three youth camps was by no means coincidental. I believe the good Lord planned it that way. As such, I was able to complete all material development by the end of 2013. Because of our similar background and theology with the Chinese Methodists, I was able to identify with their spiritual journeys. I was very encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by the youths to holiness teaching. There was a tremendous response in all the three youth camps to the altar call for holiness.
Since the completion of the study materials, I have travelled to East India last year on two occasions, in January and in October where I taught some of the topics in our Wesleyan churches there. There was a keen interest shown among the Wesleyan youths. The materials are now being translated in the Hmar language. I look forward to doing it again in December this year. While pastoring a church last year, I developed a program called Discipleship Life. The study materials were incorporated into the program and expanded. I have a great passion for youths, believing that if we do not reach out to them and train them in holiness the world will have them. The program is currently being adapted and the topics on the spiritual disciplines expanded for the adult members drawn from four different churches in the wider church community. Discipleship Life now runs weekly on Friday nights for adult members.
When God called Israel out of Egypt, His demand was clear – Israel was to be a holy nation because God Himself is holy (Lev 11:45). In like manner, the same holy God has called us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). I give thanks to God for the opportunities to promote spiritual formation and Wesleyan holiness in the wider church community. May our prayer be that we walk in holiness.
The teaching series is now complete with twelve studies in the 124-page document. As a result of a number of teaching opportunities, PowerPoint presentations covering seven of the studies and video presentations are made. I am pleased to release these materials to all pastors and leaders:
- Introduction and promotion video
- Studies in Spiritual Formation booklet and PowerPoint presentations
- Videos of teaching sessions conducted in a youth camp
I was invited to be a trainer in personal evangelism by the Chinese Methodist Church. As a result of this teaching opportunity, I took Chapter 12 of the Spiritual Formation study materials which is on Evangelism and developed it into a 6-hour training seminar. The chapter was expanded into a 63-page training manual. The seminars were conducted in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth through the sponsorship of the Chinese Methodist Church.
The 63-page personal evangelism training manual details the principles and practice of personal evangelism and following up of new believers in Christ.