For followers of Jesus wanting a more transformational life, more people seem to be engaging in some kind of spiritual formation process. I’m finding a number of different programs and processes that are percolating in the evangelical world at large (though the concept has been around for Catholics for centuries.) Here’s a short list of ones that I’ve heard of, (mostly) in a chronological order of when I first heard of them:
- School of Spiritual Direction (via Larry Crabb)
- Dallas Willard on spiritual disciplines & formation
- TrueFaced (aka Leadership Catalyst)
- Institute for Spiritual Formation (Talbot School of Theology and Biola University)
- Cloud & Townsend
- the Association for Christian Character Development (ACCD)
- Soul Renovation Ministries
- SOULeader Resources
It seems to me that a slightly increasing number of church & ministry leaders are going after these spiritual & heart matters to help people be more like Jesus. Well, some of them say it that way. Others might use different language and terms. Each probably have their own “spiritual growth” model.
In my own thinking (at the time of this writing) I think there is overlap between any of these categories: spiritual formation, spiritual direction, personal coaching, mentoring, discipleship, sanctification…
And somewhat like brands of clothing, people may be fiercely loyal to the genre of spiritual formation that’s been most transformative for them. It’s not the kind of thing that people go comparison shopping for, and let’s hope it doesn’t become commoditized that way.
And, to let my own bias show, it’s not really about the content or exercises of a spiritual formation program. It’s about one’s response to the Holy Spirit, and more telling, the person’s willingness to give permission for (a few trusted) others to speak into their lives.
Why I think this to be the case — it’s an idea from Fierce Conversations, “All conversations are with myself, and sometimes they involve other people.” So when a person goes through exercises, even if guided, it’s all too easy to reinforce one’s own perceptions. Until someone else can call out and speak to the matters of the heart, and the blind spots, transformation rarely happens to the degree that it could.