A Successful Plan

 “Any successful plan for spiritual formation, whether for the individual or group, 
will in fact be significantly similar to the Alcoholics Anonymous program.
-Dallas Willard
     Nearly ten months ago I preached a sermon about the need for Christian formation for strong faith communities. In that message I shared that such formation required the Vision,the Intentionand the Means for personal spiritual transformation. Simply, there isn’t the possibility for developing strong faith communities unless there is individual transformation into Christlikeness. The general pattern for such individual transformation is described by Dallas Willard as the little acronym “VIM,” as in the phrase “vim and vigor.” Richard Schaublin actually remembers that sermon ten months later. Many Sundays he will tell me before worship that he has “VIM!”
     Willard argues that if we are to be spiritually formed in Christ, we must have and must implement the appropriate vision, intention, and means. Willard continues that not just any path we take will do. If this VIM pattern is not put in place properly and held there, Christ simply will not be formed in us.
      Let’s look closely at this pattern Willard calls VIM. Vision is something that is cast by leaders of an organization. Simply, the leaders of an organization have a view for what makes for success and attempt to convey that view to individuals within the organization through vision-casting. For the church, the primary leader is Jesus Christ and the teachings of Jesus make it clear that the primary vision for the church is one of a disciple making community. (See Mark 1:37, 38 among multiple other sources in the Bible)

      Intention involves decision – a decision by each member of the organization to participate in the vision. Not all will, of course. There will always be a few who will respond that they “don’t like homework.” But for the majority that catch the vision, understand the vision and recognize its value, they will be the ones who decide to advance the vision forward along with the leaders. When a church member agrees to participate in the vision of disciple making, they demonstrate that they have been captivated by Christ’s vision for something greater than their personal lives.
      Means is what follows the vision and the intention to obey Christ and is the specific thing or steps one will follow to realize the vision. Bottom line, it is what we do. It is “homework” or what I prefer, “soul work.” Since Jesus’ vision of the church is to be primarily a disciple making community, the means that is identified must be useful in developing disciples. Discipleship Essentials by Greg Ogden is perhaps the best resource available today for this. Dr. Ogden will be with our congregation this November. This will be an opportunity to interact personally with one of the best thinkers today in Christian formation. I hope you will participate in this weekend experience and become personally engaged in VIM for the future Vigor of this great church. Your “Yes” to intentional Christian formation will result in a greater impact for God’s kingdom here in Delray Beach.      


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