Monday, March 1, 2010


Confession: Sometimes I pretend that I’ve read a book when I’ve only read the dustcover.

It’s hard not to be a poser. And it’s hard to let go of wanting to be more than what I am.

Richard Foster, who is best known for his book Celebration of Discipline, talks about spiritual formation with a great affinity. If that terminology is new to you, it’s only a phrase that describes what happens in any life that endeavors to be formed into the image of Jesus Christ. Foster longs for how Christianity could be manifested in our world. “I dream of a day when spiritual formation has so saturated all who follow hard after Jesus that they become known to all as experts in how to live well.” That would make YOU the resident expert on how to love your spouse or children or how to manage money, how to love the least, how to suffer through hardship…

The problem is, some people want to be these experts (or write or speak as such) without having a substantial amount of spiritual formation in their lives to back it up. The result is what Foster calls “Holy Baloney.” And when those who are looking for Christ encounter it so much, it becomes harder to distinguish true Christianity from pseudo-Christianity.

I’ve certainly been guilty of wanting to appear more spiritual than I am. AIM is one of the highlights of my spiritual formation journey. But I admit being tempted to keep up with the spiritual Joneses. And on the mission field, I remember wanting to frame our newsletters in such a way to show we were always on the verge of baptizing someone. Then I felt like as an ex-AIMer, I should be able to ace all Bible trivia questions and should fit neatly into mainstream Christianity…

Look, people want the real deal. Most can recognize when someone’s posing. They sense whether or not you really care about them or if you just want to close the deal with baptism. They are keen to pick up on ulterior motives. They take note of those who talk big and seem to have all the answers.

Being an expert at something doesn’t mean being perfect. In fact, most experts agree that being an expert doesn’t come without years of research and failures in their field.

So, wherever you are in your spiritual formation journey, you are exactly where you should be.

Because the best way for you to be Jesus is for you to just be yourself.

-Angie Burns


  1. I really connected with the idea of keeping up with the spiritual Joneses. I heard a story a few years back about a young AIM Assistant that was having a hard time. As the story is told, they came to you comparing themselves to many other people, saying that they "weren't a Heath, weren't a Pat... etc." Your response (as it's been passed down to generations) was, "Yes. But there is only one of you. Be the best you you can be." I've gotten more leverage out of that phrase than just about any other I've heard from the AIM Staff. Everyone wants to be something they aren't. I think God must take great joy when people are content with who he made them to be.
    Thanks Angie!

  2. It's been 10 years since I graduated from AIM and I think I am just now learning that lesson. It's good to see it affirmed. Love you, Angie!

  3. Chris! I picked up on two things from your comment:

    (1) You're a kind soul with an incredible gift of encouragement.
    (2) "Passed down to generations" means I'm really old.

    And Angela, hon, I have to re-learn it all the time. I love you too, Ms. Mazz!

    P.S. I may or may not have read all of Foster's Celebration of Discipline. I'm just sayin...