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BALANCE – Part 4 Defining the 4 Four Areas of Balance to Consider for Your Spiritual Formation

In the previous post, we looked at the role of the local church being an important key in creating space for spiritual formation.

The following four spaces I would suggest provide a balanced approach to aiding this formation: Celebration, Fellowship, Servanthood, and Personal development. (see Figure 1.3).

Let me define these four areas for us.

Fig. 1.3
  1. Celebration (Large worship gatherings)
  2. Fellowship (Small group type gatherings)
  3. Servanthood (gift expression and usage)
  4. Personal (individual responsibility)


I would define Celebration as the place where an individual encounters and experiences God while gathering with others to celebrate what God has done, is doing, and will do.

Notice that I have not stated that it is about size, location, denominational or non-denominational distinctions, or worship style.

A celebration is simply a place within the context of the Church and the Kingdom of God that the ‘called out’ and ‘called together’ gather around the centrality of the Godhead.

Bolsinger reminds us of the importance of this by quoting Miroslav Volf:

“… relationship with God is founded upon the gracious invitation to participate in God’s eternal community. Because the Christian God is not a lonely God, but rather a communion of the three persons, faith leads human beings into the divine communion. One cannot, however, have a self-enclosed communion with the Triune God—a “foursome,” as it were—for the Christian God is not a private deity. Communion with this God is at once also communion with those others who have entrusted themselves in faith to the same God. Hence one and the same act of faith places a person into a new relationship both with God and with all others who stand in communion with God. (Bolsinger, 68)

Therefore, we gather together in Celebration not just for the sake of ourselves but for our relationship with God and others.

In addition, Celebration may be the place in our formation where justification occurs, and we meet God out of a sense of awe or need while gathered together (Hagberg, 34).

However, the gathered celebration of the saints in Christ is not the only place a person can come to know God’s saving grace. Nevertheless, it is the sacred place in our formation where we recognize that God is bigger than just our own salvation and that He has been working in others presently, in the past, and with the hope of reaching more people.  

Furthermore, Celebration in our formation can be where we learn the theology and practices of Luke 10:27 through Word and Worship together.

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Luke 10:27


Although similar to Celebration’s emphasis on gathering together, Fellowship is primarily focused on being with others outside of the times and spaces of Celebration

Fellowship is a time and space to create a more intimate communion with God and others through accountability and giving, and sharing with others.

The New Testament usage of fellowship, which is often translated from the Greek word Koinōnia, implies having a partnership “in something” rather than the common idea of having a partnership “with someone.” (Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (Eds.). Dictionary of Paul and his letters . Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993. pp. 293–294)

Fellowship is the time and place that we share who we are and what we have in Christ while at the same time demonstrating to each other a giving of Christ to each other.

In other words, this is more than just a time to eat, catch up on the weather-politics-sports-work-the kids, or even bible study. And let me pause to state that this is not excluded from Fellowship and should be rightfully included; however, it is not the primary focus. The primary focus is Jesus and how He is and has been working in and through you. Secondly, Fellowship should also allow us to hear and be challenged in how He is participating in the life of others.

Bolsinger quotes Emil Brunner from The Misunderstanding of the Church to emphasize the importance of this by saying, “togetherness of Christians is . . . not secondary or contingent: it is integral to their life just as is their abiding in Christ.” (Bolsinger, 15) 

Also, Fellowship is a time to participate with others in exploring the abundance of His love in both knowledge and experience in greater depth beyond just the Celebration (Philippians 1:9-11, 3:10). 

In addition, it is one of the best places to practice and participate in the many one another’s listed through the New Testament (John 13:34-35; Romans 12:10).  

Calhoun in her book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, encourages the importance of the ‘one anothers’ by stating, “Just as the Trinity is one, so followers of Jesus are one. No matter how many schisms divide us, the supreme reality we are to incarnate is oneness. We belong to one another. We cannot apprentice ourselves to Jesus and live without regard for others.” (Kindle Location 7011-7013)

And finally, it is a sacred space where you may be known and supported in your journey of formation.


A third aspect of finding balance in spiritual formation in the local church is Servanthood through the equipping and usage of the Spiritual Gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:8-10; 12:28; 12:29-30; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11).

Servanthood is the model of Christ to be practiced to become more like Him (Luke 22:7).

Servanthood is a stewardship responsibility of the gifts Christ gives us (Matthew 25:14-30). Furthermore, our service in Christ is a demonstration of His love toward others (1 Peter 4:10, Galatians 5:13).

Ortberg says in his book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, “the primary reason Jesus calls us to servanthood is not just because other people need our service.  It is because of what happens to us when we serve!” (Ortberg, 108).  

Richard Foster in the classic, Celebration of Discipline, states,

 “True service rests in contented in hiddenness.  It does not fear the lights and blare of attention but does not seek them either.  Since it is living out of a new Center of reference, the divine nod of approval is completely sufficient… True service is free of the need to calculate results.  It delights only in the service. It can serve enemies as freely as friends.”

Servanthood is a place where the formation of Christ can be shaped in us as we become more like Him in practice through the use of our gifts filtered by the fruit of His Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). 

Chandler, in her book Christian Spiritual Formation: An Integrated Approach for Personal and Relational Wholeness, emphasizes that Servanthood (serving) helps us not lean too heavily on just personal development to the exclusion of manifesting God’s love and grace to those around us in engagement with the world. (Chandler, 273)


The fourth area of developing balance in your formation is your own Personal development

Dallas Willard wisely stated,

“…the main thing you will give to God — is the person you become. If your soul is unhealthy, you can’t help anybody. You don’t send a doctor with pneumonia to care for patients with immune disorders. You, and nobody else, are responsible for the well-being of your own soul.” (Ortberg, Soul Keeping, 89). 

One of the more challenging aspects of formation in the local church is the responsibility of an individual’s personal development toward their formation.

Furthermore, the local church is challenged to be confident and consistent in equipping and encouraging the individual congregant to this discipline.

In Jan Johnson’s, When the Soul Listens, she advises that we should often remember that Jesus’ great promise was that He would be with you always (Matthew 28:20) but that we might not be experiencing this because we keep praying, “God be with us.” (Johnson, 19 emphasis mine). 

In other words, the importance of personal formation is often not seen as important as corporate formation. For example, attendance at the local Church Celebration attendance, Small group involvement, and/or serving in the local church context is often valued more than personal development.

Johnson goes on to say, “At the root of these problems of disconnectedness is the fact that my spiritual life is about me and what I want. It is not centered upon God and what God wants.” (Johnson, p22)

Personal development is the area of formation most often resisted but so deeply needed. The sacred place and time are developed and built as a continual discipline where the deepest formation occurs.

Nouwen wisely warns us that without personal development, we begin to look not to God for our formation but to others,

“To wait for moments or places where no pain exists, no separation is felt and where all human restlessness has turned into inner peace is waiting for a dream-world. No friend or lover, no husband or wife, no community or commune will be able to put to rest our deepest cravings for unity and wholeness. And by burdening others with these divine expectations, of which we ourselves are often only partially aware, we might inhibit the expression of free friendship and love and evoke instead feelings of inadequacy and weakness. Friendship and love cannot develop in the form of an anxious clinging to each other. (Nouwen, Reaching Out, 14)

Personal development gives us the important time and space to reflect on the other areas of our formation while cultivating a depth of relationship with Christ that produces His wisdom, fruit, and activity in both our personal and social relationships.

Ultimately the goal of formation is to become like Christ, which requires time to be near Him personally.  And for us to recognize, as Ortberg tells us, “What the soul truly desires is God. We may try to fill that need with other things, but the soul will never be satisfied without God. The psalmist describes that need in terms of losing consciousness: “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD.” (Ortberg, Soul Keeping 85). Ultimately this will result in the goal of becoming more like Him in a pursuit of love that trumps all other motivations. (Willard, 17 Hearing God).

Now that I have described these four areas, take some time to go back over them and see where you have put your greatest emphasis. What areas do you see as imbalanced in your spiritual formation? In the next post, I will describe an example of what happens when this is neglected.

Next Post: Part 5 When Imbalance Occurs

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