What is spiritual formation?

Hi friends,

I have heard many definitions of spiritual formation!

Perhaps most common, for me, is to hear “spiritual formation” reduced to participation in an activity. Spiritual formation IS reading our Bibles, going to church, participating in Uncommon Pursuit, and so on.

Alternatively, I hear spiritual formation used to describe a certain kind of relationship. Typically, this is called “discipleship.” Discipleship IS to meet with an older person, share your experiences, benefit from their wisdom, read the Bible, and pray together.

However, I think looking at spiritual formation in this functional manner misses the heart of what is happening.

Jeffrey Greenman, the President and Professor of Theology and Ethics at Regent College, defines it this way:

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 (Life in the Spirit, 25).

This careful elaboration of spiritual formation opens up all of our lives to the love of God. It means I can be formed by God while I’m eating breakfast, driving my kids to school, writing this post, calling a friend, meditating on the Bible, and so on.

It also means that if I am engaged in religious activity, but I am not responding to the reality of God’s grace in that environment, then I am not being spiritually formed. If I spend all day at church singing hymns, listening to a sermon, and helping out, but my heart is disconnected from the work of the Holy Spirit, then spiritual formation is not taking place.

How do you define spiritual formation?

How could Greenman’s definition help you experience all of life as an opportunity to be shaped into the likeness of Jesus Christ for the sake of others?