Spiritual formation is a common topic of writing and conversation in pastoral circles these days. This is a good thing, if we understand “spiritual formation” to refer to Christ being formed in us (Gal.
4:19), or our lives being transformed (Rom. 12:1) from worldliness to be conformed to him (Rom. 8:29).
But there are many differing opinions as to what spiritual formation actually is, not all of which are Biblical. And among us who try to stay anchored in the Bible, the daily dynamics of just how spiritual formation comes about is a practical and daily concern, often confusing, even frustrating.
I’m not an expert on spiritual formation, and I’m not particularly widely read on it, but I am currently finding two resources very informative, challenging, and beneficial as I listen to them repeatedly.
The first resource is the series of lectures given at the 2009 EFCA Midwinter Ministerial. I did not attend that conference, and only recently did I begin to listen to the lectures. They are excellent. Dick Averbeck (TEDS) and Darrell Bock (Dallas Seminary) do a very able job of surveying the issues, identifying the basics, and challenging the heart. They are firmly anchored to the Scriptures, drawing from both Old Testament and New Testament. They emphasize the importance of community, evangelism, and cultural engagement as necessary fruits of true and healthy spiritual formation. You can access these talks here.
The second resource is also a lecture series. John Coe is the director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. He has a wide familiarity with the evangelical tradition of spiritual formation, and in these lectures he explores a number of issues that have significant implications for daily spiritual growth. For example:
- Am I pursuing moral formation in the name of spiritual formation? Am I fundamentally trying to be a better Christian instead of fundamentally resting in Christ’s grace and love?
- Why do I still sin when I know so much?
- How do I handle spiritual dryness?
Listening to Coe’s unconventionally winsome talks, I am finding myself deeply challenged in regard to some long-held beliefs and patterns in my life which, it turns out, are not at all consistent with the gospel and with Biblical priorities. I have found this to be both unnerving and liberating. You can find the lecture series on Biola’s web site.
I commend these resources to your consideration–and formation.