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notes and references on Spiritual Formation


Renovare: Pastoral Letter from Richard Foster November 2005

Spiritual transformation and nonviolent action: interpreting Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. (Philip Hefner, Currents in Theology and Missions 2004)

Spiritual Formation (Joann Conn, Theology Today 1999)

Spiritual Formation (Richard Foster)

Christian Spiritual Formation (Richard Foster)

Is propositional revelation essential to Evangelical spiritual formation? (Gordon Lewis, Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 2003)

The Wisdom tradition (Richard Foster)

Thomas Merton's three epiphanies (Gary Commins, Theology Today 1999)

Spiritual Formation Groups Common Disciplines (Renovare)

Spiritual Formation (Rowland Croucher)

Embracing Suffering (Richard Foster)

Transforming Discipleship: Foundations of Christian Spiritual Formation (Richard Averbeck)

Descriptors of Spiritual Formation (TACT)

Spirituality and Spiritual Formation (Richard Averbeck)

Lessons from 15 years of Renovare (Richard Foster)

Education of the Heart (Cross Currents)

Spiritual Formation based Congregations I (Richard Foster)

Spiritual Formation based Congregations II (Richard Foster)

Spiritual Formation: What it is, ad how it is done (Dallas Willard)

Idaho Springs Inquiries Concerning Spiritual Formation (Dallas Willard)

Spirituality for Smarties (Dallas Willard)

Spiritual Formation in Christ: A Perspective on What it is and How it Might be Done (Dallas Willard)

Spiritual Formation: What it is, and How it is Done (Dallas Willard)

Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the Soul (Dallas Willard)

Why Spirituality Needs Jesus   (Eugene Peterson)

What is the Focus of Spiritual Life? (Scott McKnight)

Jesus as Lord, Jesus as Servant (Diogenes Allen)

How To Be a Disciple (Dallas Willard)

Orientation to Spiritual Formation, with Special Reference to the New Testament (Michael H. Burer)

Towards a Biblical Definition of Spiritual Formation: Romans 12: 1-2 (Michael H. Burer)

Community: Discovering Who We Are Together (Center for Christian Leadership, Dallas Theological Seminary)

Interview: Richard Foster on Spiritual Formation (Christianity Today Sept 2008)

Christian Formation in and for  Sabbath Rest (Dorothy Bass, January 2005, Interpretation)


Rediscovering Centeredness

©Andris Piebalgs | Dreamstime.com

I started a journal to pair with reading this book. It’s the first such journal I have consistently written in. What strikes me, is the fact that journaling is too a lost practice among many Christians. Which has prompted me to find the reason for disappearance of these disciplines. The only answer I can find is the trend to become more free-spirited in our religious pursuits, trading what benefits us for what feels better, what is more enticing. The idea of prolong stretches of silence in a church service equates to the unexpected interruption of a blockbuster movie at the theater. We leave, we check out.

Moments of silence, of stillness offer us the opportunity to reflect, to consider, to digest what we’ve seen, heard, and emotionally felt. Instead we tend towards the side of annoyance, disparaged by the halt in “entertainment” which what so many evangelical churches have become. I know they, the pastors and church staff, mean well. Still, how can I really implement anything they teach if I don’t quiet myself long enough to hear the expressed and implied meaning of the message?

read more


Evangelical Anxieties over Spiritual Formation

In the recent issue of Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care, 2008, Vol. 1, No. 2, 129–148, there is this interesting article.

Sanctification in a New Key:
Relieving Evangelical Anxieties Over Spiritual Formation
by Steve L. Porter
Rosemead School of Psychology and
Talbot School of Theology (Biola University)

Abstract: This article is meant to be an apologetic for spiritual formation to those within the evangelical tradition who find themselves concerned about its emphases. Eight common objections to spiritual formation are presented with the twofold aim of recognizing any needed corrective and defusing the objection. While more must be said in response to each of these objections, it is hoped that enough will be said here to relieve much of the anxiety surrounding spiritual formation.

The eight general objections to spiritual formation from evangelicals are:
(1) Spiritual formation is just a fad
(2) Spiritual formation is Catholic
(3) Spiritual formation is New Age
(4) Spiritual formation is contrary to the sufficiency of Scripture
(5) What ever happened to old-fashioned obedience?
(6) Spiritual formation encourages works righteousness
(7) Spiritual formation is overly experiential
(8) Spiritual formation neglects mission/evangelism

Steve Porter addresses each one of these objections systematically, showing that Christians especially Evangelicals have nothing to fear from spiritual formation. In fact, spiritual formation as sanctification is very biblical. I am glad that someone has finally written an apologetic for spiritual formation.

In my teaching and researching of spiritual formation, I continually meet the same objections from some pastors and church leaders. Even today, I am on the blacklist of certain pastors and church leaders because of my association with spiritual formation.

Download the article here


Blind Spot of the Spiritual Formation Movement

The Blind Spot of the Spiritual Formation Movement
Listening to a sermon is a spiritual discipline that needs to be learned.
Craig Brian Larson

Craig Brian Larson is editor of PreachingToday.com and pastor of Lake Shore Church in Chicago. He is co-author and co-general editor of The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching (Zondervan, 2006).

Craig Larson identifies the spiritual discipline of listening to sermons as a blind spot of the spiritual formation movement. Read more

I want to say that sound biblical preaching does the following nine things that individual Bible reading, memorization, and meditation does not:

(1)Good preaching rescues us from our self-deceptions and blind spots, for left to ourselves we tend to ignore the very things in God's Word that we most need to see. Preaching is done in community, covering texts and topics outside of our control.

(2)Preaching brings us before God's Word in the special presence of the Holy Spirit, who indwells the gathered church.

(3)Good preaching challenges us to do things we otherwise would not and gives us the will to do them. God has put within human nature a remarkable power to spur others to take action.

(4)Good preaching brings us into the place of corporate obedience rather than merely individual obedience. This is a uniquely corporate discipline that the church does together as a community, building up individuals and the community at the same time. We are not just an individual follower of Christ; we are a member of his church and are called to obey the call of God together with others hearing the same Word.

(5)Good preaching contributes to spiritual humility by disciplining us to sit under the teaching, correction, and exhortation of another human. Relying on ourselves alone for food from the Word can lead to a spirit of arrogance and spiritual independence.

(6)Good preaching gives a place for a spiritually qualified person to protect believers from dangerous error. The apostles repeatedly warned that untrained and unstable Christians—as well as mature believers—are frequently led astray by false doctrines. Christians are sheep; false teachers are wolves; preachers are guardian shepherds. A preacher is a person called and gifted by God with spiritual authority for the care of souls in the context of God's church.

(7)Preaching and listening is a uniquely embodied, physical act. It literally puts us into the habit of having "ears that hear." There is something to be said for this physical act of listening and heeding. Good preaching is truth incarnated, truth mediated through a person from its ancient setting to today, truth we can feel through another person's heart, truth conveyed through an embodied person, truth we receive sitting shoulder to shoulder with other embodied Christians.

(8)Good preaching does what most Christians are not gifted, trained, or time-endowed to do: interpret a text in context, distill the theological truths that are universally true, and apply those truths in a particular time and place to particular people in a particular church—all this with the help of resources informed by 2,000 years of the Church's study that average Christians do not own. This is a challenging task for well-trained preachers; how much more so for those untrained?

(9)Listening to preaching has a much lower threshold of difficulty for almost all people. While many spiritual disciplines sound like exercises for the spiritually elite, both young and old, educated and uneducated, disciplined and undisciplined can at least listen to a sermon. It is God's equal-opportunity discipline. Preaching and listening is everywhere in the Bible because it is doable by the masses.


Christianity Today, January, 2009
Three priorities for the next 30 years.

Thirty years ago, when Celebration of Discipline was first penned, we were faced with two huge tasks: First, we needed to revive the great conversation about the formation of the soul; and second, we needed to incarnate this reality into the daily experience of individual, congregational, and cultural life. Frankly, we have had much greater success with the first task. Christians of all sorts now know about the need for spiritual formation, and look to saints Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant for guidance.

It's the second task that needs to consume the bulk of our energies for the next 30 years. If we do not make real progress on these fronts, all our efforts will dry up and blow away.

read more


Eugene Peterson on Spiritual Theology

I always regard Eugene Peterson as one of the modern masters of spiritual theology. I am sure he does not think of himself that way. He was one of the few early Evangelicals who was into spiritual theology before it became popular. He is the Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology of Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. His earlier books are still worth reading. These five books of a conversation on spiritual theology together are Eugene Peterson's magnum opus on the subject.



Jesus is God incarnate, a God who is immanent and transcendent. In this book, Peterson shows an immanent Christ that is present in us all and in creation. This forms the framework for the rest of the books on spiritual theology




The book is about the Bible and how we as Christians are to understand the truths that are in it. Peterson, the author of The Message which is a modern paraphrase and translation of the Bible is in a unique position to show us what teaching and learning from the Word of God is about. He challenges us from mere cognitive understanding to propositional truths to assimilating and living it out the Bible - hence eat the book.




How we do as disciples of Jesus Christ behave and live in this world is the subject of this book.




Languages are important media of communications. In this book, Peterson takes on the way we understand truth and how our culture limits our understanding. Peterson shows us the way Jesus uses languages to teach his disciples.




This is the final book in the series. Peterson wraps up his discourse on spiritual theology by exploring what spiritual growth or spiritual formation involves.


The Jesus Prayer (Frederica Matheves-Green, Kyria 2010)


Dallas Willard's Sense of Ministry

I find this comment by Dallas Willard on his homepage of his website very relevant.
My sense of ministry is to judge the lay of the land for your times and shoot where the enemy is. The enemy in our time is not human capacity, or over activism, but the enemy is passivity - the idea that God has done everything and you are essentially left to be a consumer of the grace of God, so the only thing you have to do is find out how to do that and do it regularly. I think this is a terrible mistake and accounts for the withdrawal of active Christians from so many areas of life where they should be present. It also accounts for the lack of spiritual growth, for you can be sure that if you do not act in an advised fashion consistently and resolutely you will not grow spiritually.

There is a great collection of his articles and recordings on Dallas Willard's website and on spiritual formation


evangelical piety turns upside down the medieval paradigm of a pathway to God. There the journey of faith began with purgation, moved to illumination, and finally, ended in unification, that is, union with God. In the evangelical understanding, we begin with union with Christ (the new birth) and move through Word and Spirit to illumination and the process of sanctification until, at last, in heaven we see Christ face to face
Timothy George For All The Saints: Evangelical Theology and Christian Spirituality, p.4





























































































































































































































































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


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