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Shinohara, Akira. 2002 .Spiritual Formation and Mentoring: An Approach from the Christian Tradition of Spiritual Direction. Christian Education Journal. 6NS: 105-118

 by Dr Alex Tang

Akira Shinohara is a lecturer of systematic theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in Tokyo. In this paper, Shinohara set out to explore the implications of spiritual mentoring in the evangelical church and to suggest some implications for use in spiritual formation in these churches. He defined "mentoring means the guiding relationships between Christians in the tradition of spiritual direction" (p.106).

Shinohara divided his paper into three section. The first dealt with the definition of evangelicalism and its spirituality, the second with a brief historical survey of spiritual direction and the final section is on  some implications of spiritual direction in the evangelical church today.

In the first part of evangelicalism and its spirituality, Shinohara relied heavily on David Bebbington and David Parker to define evangelicalism and that of evangelicalism's distrust of spiritual direction. Then he brought in Alister McGarth to claim that there is a need for evangelicalism to reconsider spiritual mentoring as an antidote to its individualistic tendencies. In this section, Shinohara did not differentiate spiritual mentoring and spiritual direction and seem to use the terms interchangeable. This is lamentable because there is a difference between spiritual mentoring and spiritual direction. Spiritual direction is an encompassing term and includes spiritual mentoring, spiritual companion and friends, institutional direction and group spiritual direction.

In the next section on "characteristics of spiritual formation", Shinohara stated the goals of spiritual direction as (1) deep awareness of God's presence and action in everyday life, (2) wholeness and healing, and (3) friendship. This may be true but the true goal of spiritual direction is to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in the directee's life and bring him or her to a better understanding of where God wants to be. Wholeness and healing may occur but is not a goal. Friendship is definitely not a goal in spiritual direction.

On the qualifications of a spiritual director, Shinohara mentioned Gregory's Pastoral Care and Benedict's Rule as sources of the qualification of a spiritual director. One would wonder why he chose these two because these two gave the qualifications of a spiritual leader rather than a spiritual director. A better source in finding the qualifications of spiritual directors will be either Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross. For the mode of spiritual direction, Shinohara suggested (1) attentive and committed presence, (2) friendship and (3) catechizing. I would agree with his referring to Guenther's "holy listening" for the first part, and friendship for the second aspect as the medium of relationship, I would not agree to him referring to Baxter's "catechizing and private instruction" as part of spiritual direction. Spiritual direction should be spiritual discernment rather than spiritual instruction.

In the next section, Shinohara discussed the discussion of spiritual mentoring by Eugene Peterson, Houston, Keith Anderson and Randy Reese. However, he did admit that there is no general consensus among these four evangelical leaders on spiritual mentoring which he attributed to their different perspectives (p.115).

In the section "implication of mentoring for spiritual formation in the evangelical church today", Shinohara wrote (1) the need for these churches on the need to rediscover spiritual mentoring, (2) the need for an integrated life and the role of spiritual mentoring to produce that, (3) pastor's need for self examination should be reclaimed and (4) the need to reexamine activism in the church.

Shinohara concluded his paper with a short conclusion "an educational implication". His conclusion is that the lessons we can draw from spiritual direction that can be applied to education in that teachers should have the qualifications of a spiritual director. This is astonishing because being a teacher and being a spiritual director are two different callings and need different qualifications.

While Shinohara has highlighted an important area that is needful in evangelicalism today, he has not proved that evangelicalism has accepted this need neither has he give us some indication on how spiritual mentoring can be applied in evangelical churches.


| 10 April 2006|





"Referring to a lack of spiritual depth, Alister McGarth writes that "American evangelicalism may be three thousand miles wide, but it's only six inches deep"(1994,9)" p.105

"David Bebbington points out four evangelical characteristics: <conversionism> (the belief that lives must be changed); <activism> (the expression of the gospel in action); <biblicism> (devotion to the Bible as inspired words of God); and <crucicentrism> (a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross)(Bebbington 1989,2-17)" p.106 italics in text


"treat, heal, and comfort always"

 "spiritual forming disciples of Jesus Christ with informed minds, hearts on fire and contemplative in actions"  


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