Spiritual formation

Spiritual formation

Spiritual formation is the growth and development of the whole person by an intentional focus on one’s (1) spiritual and interior life, (2) interactions with others in ordinary life, and (3) the spiritual practices (prayer, the study of scripture, fasting, simplicity, solitude, confession, worship, etc.). In "Care of Mind, Care of Spirit," Gerald G. May has written, “Spiritual formation is a rather general term referring to all attempts, means, instruction, and disciplines intended towards deepening of faith and furtherance of spiritual growth. It includes educational endeavors as well as the more intimate and in-depth process of spiritual direction.” [May, Gerald G. "Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction." 1st HarperCollins paperback ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, p. 6.]


Spiritual formation is a universal experience. Dallas Willard writes that “it is a process that happens to everyone…. Terrorists as well as saints are the outcome of spiritual formation. Their spirits or hearts have been formed.” [Dallas Willard, "Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ." (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002) p. 19.] A study of various world religions such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, and others would enable one to understand specifically how each religion views spiritual formation or spiritual growth within its unique belief system.

Christian Spiritual Formation

In Christian Spiritual Formation the focus is on Jesus. It is a life-long process as a believer desires to become a disciple of Jesus and become more like him. This would be possible because of the divine grace of the Gospel and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. Dallas Willard writes that “spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.” [Dallas Willard, "Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ." (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002) p. 22.]

Some approaches to Christian Spiritual Formation:

*"Formal Study"Theological Training (see the List of evangelical seminaries and theological colleges)
Certificate Programs in Spiritual Direction
BA and MA Programs (see the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities)

*"Informal study"Bible Studies
Independent study/reading the classics (see Christian Classics Ethereal Library)

*"Community/church involvement"Corporate worship
Volunteer service

*"Practice of spiritual disciplines"
prayer, the study of scripture, fasting, simplicity, solitude,

confession, worship, submission, service, and others

*"Ordinary experiences of everyday life"Work and play
Family life

Leadership As Spiritual Formation: Christian Perspectives

More and more people are coming to see the importance of seeing leadership development as a process of spiritual formation. Building on the emphasis of Christian Spiritual Formation in leaders, leadership expert Timothy H. Warneka has written,

"Today’s world cries out for people who can lead with a global perspective.We need leaders who lead from the heart as well as the mind,leaders who understand that decisions made about even the smallest oforganizations affect the entire global community. We need leaders whocan act ethically, intentionally, and with respect for existing citizenryas well as for future generations. We need leaders who can addressproblems from an integrated, holistic perspective—the only place thatsolutions for today’s most pressing problems will be found. Most of all,we need leaders who understand that the primary function of a leaderis to serve, not to be served. [Warneka, T. (2008). "Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership".] "

Biblical references pertaining to spiritual formation

*Isaiah 43:1 (New International Version)But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

*Ephesians 4:11-13 (The Message)He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

*Romans 8:29 (New International Version)For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

*Romans 12:2 (New International Version)Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

*2 Corinthians 3:18 (New International Version)And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Facets of Christian Spirituality

Christian Spiritual Formation involves the growth of the whole person: the mind, body, heart, and will. Over time a believer may work with different pathways or facets of spirituality in the process of spiritual growth. In "Conformed to His Image", Ken Boa explores 12 ways of approaching or studying Christian spirituality and spiritual formation. They are:

1. Relational Spirituality: Loving God Completely, Ourselves Correctly, and Others Compassionately
2. Paradigm Spirituality: Cultivating an Eternal versus a Temporal Perspective
3. Disciplined Spirituality: Engaging in the Historical Disciplines
4. Exchanged Life Spirituality: Grasping Our True Identity in Christ
5. Motivated Spirituality: A Set of Biblical Incentives
6. Devotional Spirituality: Falling in Love with God
7. Holistic Spirituality: Every Component of Life under the Lordship of Christ
8. Process Spirituality: Process versus Product, Being versus Doing
9. Spirit-Filled Spirituality: Walking in the Power of the Spirit
10. Warfare Spirituality: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil
11. Nurturing Spirituality: A Lifestyles of Evangelism and Discipleship
12. Corporate Spirituality: Encouragement, Accountability, and Worship. [Ken Boa. "Conformed to His

Spiritual Disciplines

Authors and speakers concerned with spiritual formation often agree that believers can attain spiritual growth through the practice of spiritual disciplines. Spiritual disciplines are exercises that usher one into God's presence, where his life has the opportunity to transform our lives. Dallas Willard writes:

"We meet and dwell with Jesus and his Father in the disciplines for the spiritual life." [Dallas Willard. "The Spirit of the Disciplines". (New York: Harper & Row, 1988). pg xi]

Spiritual disciplines, as a strategy towards spiritual formation, have risen and fallen in popularity over the centuries. Because Christianity asserts two things: first, that transformation of the heart is a work only God can accomplish, and second, that we are saved not by our works or efforts, but by God's grace, that is, his unmerited favor, the church has often been tempted to marginalize the usefulness of these disciplines so as not be confused with preaching "justification by works."

However those who appreciate the usefulness of the disciplines respond by saying that, it is not salvation that is at stake, but rather the need to develop people of genuine Christ-like character to live in the world and confront its values.



Some writers associated with Christian Spiritual Formation

*Dallas Willard
*Richard Foster
*David Benner
*Kenneth Boa
*Larry Crabb
*Henri Nouwen
*Bruce Demarest
*A. W. Tozer
*Eugene Petersen
*Martin Sanders

Some organizations concerned for Christian Spiritual Formation

*The Wesleyan Church
*The Navigators
*Prison Fellowship International
*Wycliffe Bible Translators
*Spiritual Directors International
*Metamorpha.com - An Online Community for Spiritual Formation

Further reading

*Dallas Willard. "Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ". (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002).
*Ken Boa. "Conformed to His

*Gerald G. May. "Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction". (San Francisco: Harper, 1982).
*Richard Foster. "Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth". (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978).
*David Benner. "Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel". (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998).

External links

* [http://ats.edu The Association of Theological Schools]
* [http://www.cccu.org The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities]
* [http://www.renovare.org Renovaré]
* [http://www.sdiworld.org Spiritual Directors International]
* [http://www.navigators.org/us The Navigators]
* [http://www.pfm.org/default_pf_org.asp Prison Fellowship]
* [http://www.Metamorpha.com Metamorpha: An Online Community for Spiritual Formation]
* [http://www.catholicservantleader.com Catholic Servant Leadership]

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