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Grand Rapids, MI

Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Engaging Dallas on Spiritual Formation


Recently I've been reading a lot about Spiritual Formation from Dallas Willard. Dallas is a phenomenal teacher, writer, and leader in thinking around spiritual formation and discipleship. He has a number of books that are fabulous, including The Divine Conspiracy, The Spirit of the Disciplines, Renovation of the Heart, and Hearing God. You can find information on Dallas and these books at his website.

I'm going to spend some time over a few blogs presenting and engaging some of the ideas in a few of his published and unpublished articles as well as some things swirling around in my head.

The first thing to raise is probably Willard's discontent with the state of spiritual formation in the lives of protestants, including evangelicals. I remember reading several years back Mark Noll's ground-breaking book Scandal of the Evangelical Mind [for Noll's own update 10 years later in First Things, click here] and Willard's critiques make me wonder if a book entitled Scandal of the Evangelical Formation might be appropriate. In any case, Willard makes the point that evangelicals especially have been so focused on salvation and right or sound doctrine that we have neglected to answer serious questions about how Christ is formed in us, especially with regard to our participation and role in our own formation. In discussions about some of these ideas recently with a friend of mine (Ken White, Lead Pastor of Huron Hills Baptist Church), he added to that list our concerns over a proper worship service. This isn't to say that focusing on salvation, sound doctrine, and proper worship aren't important, but that too often for evangelicals, our preoccupation with these have been at the neglect of a focus on personal and corporate spiritual formation. A lot of questions are raised:

  • What is spiritual formation?
  • How does it happen?
  • How is Christ formed in us?
  • What do we do to participate rather than hinder the process?
  • How is the community involved in our spiritual formation?
  • What is our actual plan/ process for "making disciples of all nations" - which is our mandate from Jesus?

As Cultivation Pastor here at Fair Haven, I've been giving these questions a lot of thought. Stay tuned for more thoughts and questions, and please comment with your thoughts as well.

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