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The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us in the Way of Jesus

The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us in the Way of Jesus


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During our chaotic times, discover five forgotten values that can spark internal growth and help us reconcile our Christian faith with the complexities of race, sexuality, and social justice.


Most believers live in the state of “being a Christian” without ever being deeply formed by Christ. Our pace is too frenetic to be in union with God, and we don’t know how to quiet our hearts and minds to be present. Our emotions are unhealthy and compartmentalized. We feel unable to love well or live differently from the rest of the world—to live as people of the good news.

New York pastor Rich Villodas says we must restore balance, focus, and meaning for our souls. The Deeply Formed Life lays out a fresh vision for spiritual breakthrough following five key values:

• Contemplative Rhythms Value: slowing down our lives to be with God.
• Racial Justice Value: examining a multi-layered approach to pursuing racial justice and reconciliation.
• Interior Examination Value: looking beneath the surface of our lives to live free and love well.
• Sexual Wholeness Value: exploring how our sexuality connects with our spirituality.
• Missional Presence Value: living as the presence of Christ in a broken world. 

The Deeply Formed Life is a roadmap to live in the richly rooted place we all yearn for: a place of communion with God, a place where we find our purpose.

Praise for The Deeply Formed Life

The Deeply Formed Life is a book for our time. Honest, wise, insightful, funny, and—above all—deep. The way Rich and New Life Fellowship hold emotional health and racial justice together is beyond inspiring. This is spiritual formation for the future of the church.”—John Mark Comer, pastor of teaching and vision at Bridgetown Church and author of The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

“I’ve studied the Bible under Pastor Rich’s leadership for close to a decade. The core values he shares in this book serve as guidance, not only for how we should live as Christians in an ever-changing world but also for how we can live a life of purpose—that consistently and enthusiastically points to Jesus.”—Susan Kelechi Watson, actress from the awardwinning television series This Is Us

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780525654407
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/31/2021
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 58,506
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Rich Villodas is the Brooklyn-born lead pastor of New Life Fellowship, a large, multiracial church with more than seventy-five countries represented in Elmhurst, Queens. Rich graduated with a BA in pastoral ministry and theology from Nyack College. He went on to complete his master's of divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary. He enjoys reading widely, and preaching and writing on contemplative spirituality, justice-related issues, and the art of preaching. He's been married to Rosie since 2006 and they have two beautiful children, Karis and Nathan.

Read an Excerpt


Contemplative Rhythms for an Exhausted Life

In 1901, an American doctor named John Harvey Girdner coined the term Newyorkitis to describe an illness that had symptoms including edginess, quick movements, and impulsiveness. At the time, he said it was “a disease which affects a large percentage of the inhabitants of Manhattan Island.” As a native New Yorker, I can’t help but laugh and also gasp at these words. I laugh because Girdner is describing a world long gone: a world without the internet, high-­speed cars, and other technological advances that inform everything we do. I gasp, however, because if Newyorkitis is what Girdner observed more than one hundred years ago, where does that leave us today?

Girdner saw something in 1901 that captured the dangerous pace at which we often unwittingly live. Our world hasn’t slowed down. Our world continues on, faster and busier, and we are reminded that our souls were not created for the kind of speed to which we have grown accustomed. Thus, we are a people who are out of rhythm, a people with too much to do and not enough time to do it. This illness is no longer a New York phenomenon—it has infected people around the world. And I see it every day.

Recently on a Saturday morning, I was walking through my neighborhood, and as I neared my apartment building an older man frantically shouted across the street, “Are you Jewish?” He waved his hands at me as if he had been stranded on a deserted island and I was his ticket back to civilization. He repeated again as he drew closer, “Are you Jewish?” This was a strange question, but it occurred to me I had been growing out my beard, so that might explain the question.

I responded a bit too loudly for an early Saturday morning, “No, I’m Puerto Rican.”

“Okay, great,” he said as he tried to catch his breath, wiping sweat from his forehead. “I need your help. I have to get my ninety-­year-­old mother downstairs.”

It was a slow morning for me, so with curiosity I followed him into his apartment building. When we got to the elevator, he pointed at the buttons while distractedly looking in the other direction. “Press six, please,” he said—another strange moment, but I willingly did so. On the ride up, we exchanged names and then awkwardly stared at the numbers. His breathing was heavy and labored. I looked at him from the corner of my eye to see him talking under his breath.

We took the elevator up six stories. Then as he was about to step into his small apartment he shouted, “Ma, Rich is here.”

His mother shouted back with irritation, “Who’s Rich?” (This was quite a New York moment.)

I stepped in and saw a frail, well-­dressed elderly woman grasping her walker. She had on a large pearl necklace and heels that looked a bit too big for her. With exasperation, she grumbled things like, “I’m so busy,” “There’s never enough time,” and “How am I going to finish everything?”

Soon I found out that this mom-­and-­son duo were heading to the local synagogue but that he couldn’t press the elevator button due to Sabbath prohibitions. All he wanted me to do was press the elevator button—nothing more, nothing less.

I look back at that moment and chuckle. But what struck me most in this whole encounter was that this elderly woman was stressed out because of the fullness of her life. Here she was, overwhelmed, on the Sabbath, of all days, with too much to do at ninety years of age.

New York, it is alive and well.

Dangerously Depleted

Our lives can easily take us to the brink of burnout. The pace we live at is often destructive. The lack of margin is debilitating. We are worn out. In all of this, the problem before us is not just the frenetic pace we live at but what gets pushed out from our lives as a result; that is, life with God. Educator and activist Parker Palmer makes a compelling case that burnout typically does not come about because we’ve given so much of ourselves that we have nothing left. He tells us, “It merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place.”

What would it look like to live at a different pace? What if there were a rhythm of life that could instead enable us to deeply connect with God, a lifestyle not dominated by hurry and exhaustion but by margin and joy? As long as we remain enslaved to a culture of speed, superficiality, and distraction, we will not be the people God longs for us to be. We desperately need a spirituality that roots us in a different way.

As long as we remain enslaved to a culture of speed, superficiality, and distraction, we will not be the people God longs for us to be.

No matter our walks of life or professions, our struggle is all too real: single parents trying to find just a moment of oasis from the incessant bickering of children, doctors caught in the unending pressures of life-­and-­death choices, and pastors over-­functioning to the point of breakdown. There are schoolteachers whose work never really ends, sleep-­deprived students floundering through exams, immigrant small-­business owners struggling to make ends meet, and therapists and social workers overwhelmed with the bottomless crises they need to resolve daily. The pace of our lives can be brutal.

Without denying these realities, we are invited to a different way of being in the world. The late Japanese theologian Kosuke Koyama wrote a book titled Three-­Mile-­an-­Hour God. Dr. Koyama was trying to convey that if we want to connect with God, we’d be wise to travel at God’s speed. God has all the time in the world, and as a result he is not in a rush. Thus, Koyama’s claim that God travels at three miles an hour is not an arbitrary figure. On average, humans walk at this pace. And it’s in just such ambling, unhurried, and leisurely moments that we often encounter God. N. T. Wright similarly affirmed, “It is only when we slow down our lives that we can catch up to God.” This is the paradox of contemplative rhythms.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating that we go back to dial-­up internet service and take boats instead of airplanes to our destinations. Speed has helped remake our world in ways that are wonderful and liberating. But speed has also caused our connections with God and others to be incredibly superficial. There’s a severe lack of depth in our lives and communities because we have allowed ourselves to be swept up by a world under the influence of addictive speed. And as philosopher Dallas Willard famously said, “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

In the face of this crisis of speed, distraction, and superficial spirituality, there is a way that has been tried and tested through the centuries. It’s a way that has marked my life from the time I became a Christian as a young adult. It’s the way of the monastic, contemplative life. We live in a time when we must learn from the monastery. We desperately need a way of thinking and living that isn’t captive to the powers of efficiency, speed, and performance. We need a way of living according to a different understanding of time and space. We need the treasures of monastic imagination.

A Monastic Imagination

Before you dismiss this notion as an old, irrelevant idea from the Dark Ages, let me attempt to reveal the monastic approach as an important correction to our way of life and faith. As pastor Ken Shigematsu stated, “Every one of us has a monk or nun ‘embryo’ inside of us.” Deep in our souls, we crave space with God that is defined by silence, stillness, and solitude.

My first experience of this kind of monastic spirituality was in college, and it forever changed me. As a student at Nyack College in Rockland County, New York, I was required to take a personal spiritual-­formation class my senior year. Part of the class was to go on a weekend retreat at a Franciscan monastery. During the weekend, the students were placed in different parts of the grounds for about eight hours to just “be with God.” In my case, I was told to remain on the platform of an outdoor chapel, with no Bible, only a journal. My assignment was to remain in solitude and write about the experience. This was one of the most challenging and exhilarating days of my life.

I would close my eyes and listen to the beautiful sounds of birds chirping and then in the next moment stare into the ground and see a colony of ants working diligently. In the stillness of the moment, every part of creation somehow connected me to God.

I’d look out into the empty rows of wooden chairs, wondering about my future life of preaching. I’d fix my gaze on the statue of baby Jesus being tenderly held by Joseph at the center of the platform. As I closed my eyes and took deep breaths, I imagined God holding me in that tender embrace. There were moments of delightful contemplation when I heard words of God’s grace spoken deep within my heart. I journaled many pages of prayers, fears, and requests, and when I got tired of writing, I just stared out into the monastery grounds.

Now, I don’t want you to get the idea that it was all heavenly; it wasn’t. There were also times of sheer boredom and dread, when I was disinterested and wanted to be somewhere else. I mean, after just an hour of solitude and silence, I was ready to go home. But I was stuck there.

Table of Contents

Foreword Pete Scazzero vii

Introduction: Formed by a Shallow World xi

1 Contemplative Rhythms for an Exhausted Life 3

2 Deeply Formed Practices of Contemplative Rhythms 20

3 Racial Reconciliation For a Divided World 43

4 Deeply Formed Practices of Racial Reconciliation 64

5 Interior Examination for a World Living on the Surface 88

6 Deeply Formed Practices of Interior Examination 107

7 Sexual Wholeness for a Culture That Splits Bodies from Souls 128

8 Deeply Formed Practices of Sexual Wholeness 148

9 Missional Presence in a Distracted and Disengaged World 170

10 Deeply Formed Practices of Missional Presence 189

Afterword: The Deeply Formed Way Forward 215

A Guide for Reflection and Discussion 221

Acknowledgments 241

Notes 243

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