As we grow in our understanding and practice of relational spiritual formation (which is the intent of small group communities) we open up environments that provide the opportunity to experience something markedly different from what we experience in a programmed or teaching based methodology. David Augsburger in his book Dissident Discipleship provides some key questions for small group environments. For me these questions are certainly challenging but they also create a sense of hope. There are places God wants to take us that we have not been before – places where we are more connected with each other and the reality of what He is doing all around us:
◊ How can I learn a spirituality that nurtures human wholeness unless I commit myself to do all I can and contribute all I can to building a community where we together are seeking ways to practice the imitation of Christ? Or will I have to be content with a spirituality of desirable but finally optional ventures?
◊ How can I find spiritual co-travelers who are willing to invest time, give attention, risk self-disclosing, and jointly covenant for a life of shared responsible discipleship? Or will I have to go it alone and learn that part of spirituality that is possible for a self that is seeking to transcend itself by itself?
◊ How can I learn a spirituality of accountability to God unless I have the opportunity to be accountable to significant others? How can I live a spirituality of accountability unless I participate in a community where my acts and their consequences are visible to all who are affected by them? Or will I have to settle for a spirituality that is answerable ultimately only to itself?
◊ How can I learn a spirituality of humility and equality before God unless I live a community where hierarchy is unnatural, where dominance is not rewarded, and where superiority is neither desirable nor inevitable? Or will I have to claim my place in a spirituality of entitlement if I am privileged, or of disentitlement if I am not?
◊ How can I learn a spirituality of immediate and reflexive concern for the needs of others that seeks to do something about the unjust distribution of resources unless I contribute to a community where sharing is meaningful because we agree to consume less, waste less, do more with less? Or will I have to follow a spirituality that costs me very little?
◊ How can I learn a spirituality of dissident discipleship that takes risks in the imitation of Christ unless I join a community that offers support for maintaining a consistent and sensitive conscience? Or will I have to find a rationale for a spirituality that smoothes the contradictions and offers comfort for my unease before the call of Christ?
◊ How can I learn a spirituality of deep reverence for the preciousness of persons unless I practice such honor of others in a community where we are persons, not roles, to each other? Or is the cost of all of this too high to consider in a world that allows self-realization as its highest good?