I sat with Earl Lavender in the faculty lounge of Lipscomb University. A heady place with enough brainpower in the room to light nine city blocks. Yet in this brain soup environment, for this co-author of Living God's Love, from which we've taken an excerpt as our first offering in the Mar/Apr 05 issue on "Spiritual Formation," the conversation came down to a ragged old piece of paper he pulled from his wallet.
John Ortberg had given Lavender the small card (and I'm not dropping names because Lavender also made fun of himself for once patting himself on the back in his life and dropping names when he got to meet Ortberg), tattered and worn on the edges so the scripture was cut off and said "UKE 6:40" instead of LUKE 6:40.
Here's what the card said:
My ultimate goal is to live as Jesus would live if he were in my place. UKE 6:40Then the word "ultimate" was scratched out and "only" was handwritten above it. When did he make that edit to his life goal? When he realized it was idolatry to play a dozen roles in his life such as minister, equipper, teachers, spouse, dad, brother, son, rather than making the overarching goal of everything to be a good follower in the way of Jesus.
He then quoted what "UKE 6:40" says: "A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher" (NIV).
Lavender is convinced that Spiritual Formation must permeate every part of the church, and that we should not strive for "church systems or structures" but to be kingdom people so that the compartmentalizing of sacred and secular that we often so easily stumble over does not sidetrack our discipleship. He spoke of several books that I'll need to check out of the library and list for you later. One by a couple of Aussies on the missional church that you may have read. If so, let's hear it.
Gary Holloway and Earl Lavender are in the middle of a revolution on one college campus, but it's happening in pockets worldwide. College-aged and thereabouts want what is real and, according to Lavender, they want to know what gives God pleasure. Their book helps us envision the love of God and his sons and daughters. Not only that, it gives structure and direction to that.
The mantra of "living like Jesus" and being shaped into his image (2 Cor. 3:17-18) seems simple enough, but it does not just happen. It does not happen merely by pooling ignorance in discussion groups but through interaction with the person and life of Jesus Christ. It happens most authentically when we make our only life goal to know Jesus and experience him in our lives through the power of the Spirit and a relationship with the Father to which Christ introduces us.
For those of you who read this blog, here is an early look at the excerpt. The rest will see an email Thursday. During this issue on Spiritual Formation, we will be reading and discussing Living God's Love together. If you have the book, read along with us or buy the book and join us.