Monday, July 29, 2013

What Is Spiritual Formation?

Sculpture of actor, musician, and orator Paul Robeson,
at Central State University,
Wilberforce, Ohio

(I'm teaching Spiritual Formation at Payne Theological Seminary this week. Here are some quotes that get at the idea of "spiritual formation.")
What is spiritual formation?
o   “Spiritual formation can be understood as the process by which true Christlikeness is established in the very depths of our being.” (Dallas Willard)
o   “Spiritual formation” is “a term for those processes through which people are inwardly transformed in such a way that the personality and deeds of Jesus Christ naturally flow out from them when and wherever they are.” (Willard)
o    "When we talk about spiritual formation we are talking about framing a progression of life in which people come to actually do all things that Jesus taught. So we are obviously going for the heart. We are aiming for change of the inner person, where what we do originates." (Willard)

o   "Spiritual formation is our continuing response to the reality of God's grace 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." 

o  “I define spirituality in the African context as the formation of self through communal being or relationality. For me, spirituality means a rite of passage or a way of practicing a better life. This means at the heart of Christian spirituality is prayerful personhood seeking mutuality with God and neighbor.” (Michael Battle, The Black Church in America: African American Christian Spirituality)

o    Henri Nouwen - "Spiritual formation, I have come to believe, is not about steps or stages on the way to perfection. It’s about the movements from the mind to the heart through prayer in its many forms that reunite us with God, each other, and our truest selves." (Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, Kindle Locations 152-154) 

"Spiritual formation requires taking not only the inward journey to the heart, but also the outward journey from the heart to community and ministry. Christian spirituality is essentially communal. Spiritual formation is formation in community. One’s personal prayer life can never be understood if it is separated from community life. Prayer in the spiritual life leads to community, and community to prayer. In community we learn what it means to confess our weakness and to forgive each other. In community we discover our own woundedness, but also a place of healing. In community we learn true humility. Without community, we become individualistic and egocentric. Therefore, spiritual formation always includes formation to life in community." (Ib., Kindle Locations 309-315)