Thursday, November 12, 2009

What is Spiritual Formation...?

What exactly is Spiritual Formation?

This is
a question I get asked quite often. In some circles its a "buzz word" of the latest discipleship-lingo, while for others, it's a word of apprehension, held with no small level of suspect.

Below, is a sampling of various authors and their attempt to conceptualize and define the essence of spiritual formation in a couple sentences or less. As you read through them, note the various nuances particular authors make or emphasize.

What make each unique? Look for the common themes that emerge throughout them. As you reflect on what others have written, begin to ask yourself, what's truly imperative, essential and beneficial in a person becoming "formed" into the "image of Christ."

  1. “A process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.” (Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey 15)

  2. “Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the gracious working of God's spirit, for the transformation of the world.” –from The Upper Room (

  3. “Thus, we can define spirituality this way: Spirituality is about what we do with the fire inside of us, about how we channel our eros. And how we do channel it, the disciplines and habits we choose to live by, will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration within our bodies, minds, and souls, and to a greater integration or disintegration in the way we are related to God, others, and the cosmic world.” (Rolheiser, The Holy Longing 11).

  4. “Spiritual formation is the continuing response to the reality of God’s grace shaping us shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith for the sake of the world.” --Toward a Definition of Spiritual Formation by Jeffery P. Greenman and Donald Goertz (Tyndale Seminary)

  5. “The dynamics of shaping the human spirit toward maturity and consonance.” (The Upper Room Dictionary of Christian Spiritual Formation 107)

  6. “The end of all Christian belief and obedience, witness and teaching, marriage and family, leisure and work life, preaching and pastoral work is the living of everything we know about God: life, life and more life. If we don’t know where we are going, any road will get us there. But if we have a destination—in this case a life lived to the glory of God—there is a well marked way, the Jesus-revealed Way. Spiritual theology is the attention that we give to the details of living life on this way” (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 1)

  7. “My condition is called a desire for God’s ‘habitual presence’….In spiritual theology this condition is not merely recognized; guidance is provided on how that hunger may be satisfied.” (Diogenes Allen, Spiritual Theology, 2)

  8. “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, 22)

  9. “Scripturally speaking, the spiritual life is simply the increasing vitality and sway of God’s Spirit in us. It is a magnificent choreography of the Holy Spirit in the human spirit, moving us toward communion with both Creator and creation. The spiritual life is thus grounded in relationship. It has to do with God’s way of relating to us, and our way of responding to God.” (Marjorie Thompson, Soul Feast, 6)

  10. “Christian spirituality, then, simply put, is God’s passionate embrace of us; our passionate embrace of God.” (Robert Webber, The Divine Embrace, 16)

1. What features you deem most important as you create a definition of Spiritual Formation.

a. It’s a journey…process…continuous…ongoing…
b. It’s intentional.
c. It’s relational. True formation can’t happen void of community.
d. It’s influential (to others in our community and the world at large).

2. What issues are at stake?

a. Spiritual Formation (and the quality of my life) is always transforming… is it “integrating” or “disintegrating”?

"Each day we are becoming
either a creature of splendid glory or
one of unthinkable horror."
C.S. Lewis
b. others…?

3. What categories re-surface in the definitions I provided?

a. It’s a process…
b. It’s our response to God’s initiative…
c. We’re being formed to the likeness/image of Christ.
d. It influences others…

What are some key elements to spiritual formation from your perspective?

Which of the above definitions do you like best and why?

1 comment:

非凡 said...

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