On Sunday we began week five of our 10-week exploration of three Touchstones that will shape the future of our mission and vision at ECC. As a reminder, a touchstone was a piece of flint-like, black stone used to determine the quality of gold and other precious metals by examining the color of the mark left when the metal was scratched against it. Since then, its meaning has evolved to refer to a criterion by which we measure the genuineness of something, or, probably most helpful for our purposes, a touchstone is “a fundamental or quintessential part or feature” of something. Our three ECC Touchstones are Welcome, Transformation, and Presence. This week, we begin to look at Transformation.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he teaches us that outward acts of piety are not enough. We must become the kind of people whose righteousness goes beyond that of the religious elite (Matthew 5.20). In doing so, we “yoke” ourselves with Jesus and discover that being conformed to the image and character of Christ is not a burden, but is “easy” and “light” (Matthew 11.28-30). We submit to the yoke of Christ and the Spirit of God, and we are transformed.
We acknowledge that Transformation is important because God desires that Christ be formed in us (Galatians 4.19) and that we be “conformed to the image of Christ” (Romans 8.29). As the Apostle Paul puts it in elsewhere, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory…” (2 Corinthians 3.18). Likewise, our destiny as followers of Christ is to become “like him,” for one day “we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3.2). This is where God in Christ is taking all things. Christoformity – having the character of Christ formed in us – is the goal of our transformation.
I have taken the word “Christoformity” from scholar Scot McKnight of Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (formerly of North Park University in Chicago). He, in turn, borrowed it from one of his professors when he was doing his PhD work in England. Other words that overlap this concept of Christoformity are: transformation, Christlikeness, and discipleship. But I like Christoformity because of its strangeness – we have to stop and consider what it means; we can’t just read right past it. To become a Christoform person is to become a person who is shaped, formed, and filled with the character and nature of Christ Jesus. It is to become the “little Christs” CS Lewis speaks of when he says, “Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.” In my understanding, it is the primary responsibility of a pastor to nurture a culture that nourishes his or her people in the direction of Christoformity.
Because God desires that Christ is formed within us, and Jesus teaches us a new way of life, we seek to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in helping one another follow him in our journey toward Christoformity. What we do in worship each Sunday, and in our classrooms and ministry with children, youth, and adults, is all aimed at spiritual formation. It is the goal of our retreats and special events, our Bible studies and our Community Gathering options for Christian formation, to list a few.
Our commitment to transformation is found in our intent to engage spiritual formation practices as a community and as individuals. We desire to provide resources and relationships for the journey from curiosity to Christoformity.