In his book Reimaginging Spiritual Formation, Doug Pagitt brings it a little more down to earth when he writes about spiritual formation through dialogue. He states: “Dialogue isn’t just helpful in spiritual formation, it may be essential. If people are to center their lives on the story and call of Jesus, we as the church need to find ways to help the truths of Jesus become embedded in those lives. For many people, that can only happen when they are allowed to turn an idea over in their heads for a while, to ask questions of it, to make sense of it in their own time and in light of their own experiences.” (The added emphasis is mine, and I would go further to say that dialogue is essential—period.)
My further spin on this is that this dialogue—in the context of the local church—should not be contained simply to a “dialogue format” service or a small group model for community. Rather, as Joe Myers’ describes community in The Search to Belong, we need to recognize that there is significant spiritual formation happening through dialogue/conversation in every moment of every space in which we are in relationship with one another—whether it be public space, social space, personal space, or intimate space. Our churches need to validate the relationships of the people who inhabit these spaces, and moreover seek to foster healthy community in all four spaces.
In summary, as I see it and believe it to be true, wisdom for living and spiritual formation happens at its deepest levels by conversation and community. We are shaped most significantly by the people whom we are in relationship with. Which leads me to the provocative question of diversity in the emerging church: Who am I in relationship with? Who am I “doing community” with? Because that’s where it begins.
I agree with this assessment… it in fact underscores the necessity of fellowship as a spiritual discipline. Spiritual disciplines, of course, are the primary means by which we participate with God in our spiritual formation. Upshot: there is much spiritual formation to be found in discussions with journeymates over coffee.