Diocesan Lenten Book Club

We invite you to pick up the book and join the Facebook group for our first ever Diocesan Lenten Book Club!

Now that February has arrived, Ash Wednesday is right around the corner ushering in the season of Lent. As we’ve previously announced, the Diocese of Springfield is inviting you to an online Lenten book club. The selection for our journey this year is The Deeply Formed Life by Rich Villodas. The title may sound basic, but it’s a call to pursue the deeper work of the Spirit as the Lord transforms us from within to the image of Jesus.

In order to enhance our shared reading experience, we’re going to provide a private Facebook group as a centering hub. On that page you’ll be able to view a video trailer for the book along with links to other resources. With each successive Monday we’ll also provide you with a reflective question generated by one of the various themes of the book: contemplative rhythms; interior examination; racial justice; sexual wholeness; and missional presence. We look forward to your thoughtful responses and interactions with the book and one another as we are formed together in Jesus!

Review of The Deeply Formed Life by Rich Villodas

by Tim McNutt
Postulant, Episcopal Parish of Alton

When St. Paul wrote to the early Roman church, he made it a point to remind his listeners they were to be conformed to the image of the Son, Jesus the Christ (Rom. 8.29). Paul meant this in contrast to all the other images in life to which they could have been conforming. To practice his admonition (also found in Rom. 12.2) Paul meant for them to consistently reexamine the rhythms of their daily lives as followers of Jesus. Not much has changed in 2,000 years – whether we admit it or not, we’re all being shaped, influenced, and conformed to an image of someone or something. Yet the question remains the same for the Romans and us: are we being conformed to the image of Jesus the Son?

Who or what is influencing your life and development as someone who follows Jesus? Not long ago, I came across Rich Villodas’ book, The Deeply Formed Life which seeks to explore that exact question. The book caught me off guard as I personally tend to gravitate more towards the bookish, studious, and library-oriented life rather than an inward, spiritual, touchy-feely side of faith. This means that too often I have equated proper theology and thinking with proper discipleship. Yes, I follow our Daily Offices and read quite a bit from the psalms. Yet too often, I’ve been aware that my understanding of ‘being transformed by the renewal of my mind’ (Rom. 12.2) has been geared more toward properly and theologically conceptualizing Jesus than relating to him. Villodas’ book was a big wakeup call for me and I hope it can be for you as well this Lenten season.

The author, Rich Villodas, is also the senior pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens, NYC. It’s interesting that New Life Fellowship uses an iceberg as its logo. The reason is because icebergs are known for their 10% visibility above water while the other 90% remains hidden beneath the surface of the ocean. It’s a great metaphor for thinking about how Jesus seeks to conform our entire lives to his image and not just the 10% that’s visible to folks around us. Personally, I know that I’m a lot like an iceberg. Too much of my life is attuned to the 10% visibility factor for those around me which may or may not be representative of the other 90% of my life that people can’t see. Meaning, as long as that 10% looks good, I’m set.

St. Paul dealt with similar themes in his letter to the church at Colossae. How were those who had received Jesus walking, being rooted, and being built up in him (Col. 2.6-7)? I love how Villodas and the New Life leadership team wrestled with these very same community issues. As a result, they arrived at a framework of five key life formation points that would impact people’s lives in Jesus in a deeper and more meaningful way. The objective was that each New Life community member would be called to focus on more than the shallow 10% iceberg visibility rate. Instead, these five key formation points were meant to shape the conformity of each person to the image of the Son, in other words, the other 90% of someone that’s rarely made public. This is an important Lenten message for all of us.

Villodas’ life transformation values are addressed one chapter at a time in his book: contemplative rhythms, racial reconciliation, interior examination, sexual wholeness, and missional presence. Following each value, Villodas devotes another chapter about how to practice each value in a deeply formed fashion. One of the great aspects of the book is that the chapters are full of authentic self-disclosures of when Villodas himself had to press deeper in order to be conformed to Jesus. I heartily recommend Villodas’ book to all of us this Lent, that all of us would move away from shallow quick fixes and instead apply the values that will result in deeper, long-term life transformation in Jesus.

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