Responding to God’s Call, Christian Formation Today

When I began the book I wondered what Christian formation meant… I was familiar with the Christian vocation when God calls someone to become a clergyman or a missionary or a call to a particular work such as happened to people like Hudson Taylor who founded the China Inland Mission, Barnado who founded homes for Children in need or Charles Haddon Spurgeon who became a great Baptist preacher and who also founded two children’s homes. I live on the site of one!

I was puzzled by “Formation”. It is defined in the preface as “The ways in which Christians are shaped in and for vocation, where vocation names the process of responding to God’s call”. The writer expands this by saying each of us has a unique call and the journey of discipleship is different for each of us.

The author then suggests in part one how our life may shape us, in part two how to understand Christian vocation and in part three how to make space for Christian vocation.

There is a very interesting piece about love. He discusses the thoughts of Plato and Socrates and he enters the area of modern romantic love. It is unusual for a theological book to say much about human love.

The book ends with a section to help us make space for Christian Foundation which includes memory, contemplation and being willing. He wisely says there are moments of great opportunity for grace, as well as potential danger for sin.

One of the good things about this book is that at the end of each chapter there is a chapter review. In the review of knowledge he concludes that Christian formation can struggle to affirm the place of thinking in responding to God’s call, with serious believers feeling a painful tension between what feeds the heart and what satisfies the head. I struggled to enjoy this book which I guess would only be read by university lecturers or students. It is not a book for the majority of folk sitting in the church pews. I noticed that all the comments written on the back of the book are by bishops or teachers at theological college, or are readers in a university and are theologians or leaders in Methodism. There is nothing from an ordinary person not involved in theology.

Chris Porteous CBE