Sunday, 21 June 2009

shape without substance and form without power

shape but no substance


It has the recognisable shape of a first generation Mini,'s a classic case of shape without substance and form without power. It resembles one thing but is actually something quite different.

'Shape without substance' may well have been on John Wesley's mind when he penned his  "Thoughts Upon Methodism":

"I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out."

In our Methodist understanding then,

To try and do church without being totally open to the lovingly creative power of the Holy Spirit would be a bit like trying to drive this garden planter: don't be surprised if you get nowhere fast. Yet still we reach for the keys.....

And to try and do church without an active commitment to social justice and the poor would be to have the form of religion without the power too (read Blake Huggins post for more on this)

Shape without substance and form without power is both a warning from our collective past and an encouragement for our collective future: in all things we can ask the question of ourselves, what shape and form should the church adopt in order to express the revolutionary transformative substance of the gospel and the powerful liberating presence of God's grace?


  1. I'm sure I've seen this pic somewhere before ...

  2. a timely warning, and dare I say, I fear for some too late....