Thirty-one years ago, not many evangelicals thought much of the "spiritual disciplines," and when they did, they thought of them negatively—as one more form of works righteousness. That began to change substantially 30 years ago, with the publication of Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. This book, arguably more than any other, introduced evangelicals not only to the disciplines, but also to the wealth of spiritual formation writing from the medieval and ancient church. Today you are almost as likely to hear an evangelical talk about Thomas à Kempis's The Imitation of Christ as Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life.
The idea for Celebration grew in the heat of pastoral work, as Foster explains below. The church of his youth supported him financially and in prayer as he made his way through college (George Fox) and seminary (Fuller), but little did it know what fruit would result. Neither did Harper & Row, which decided to publish the unsolicited manuscript of an unknown pastor. (The full story of the publication is told in the introduction to the revised edition of Celebration.) Since then, Foster has published many other books, including his most recent (with Kathryn Helmers), Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation (HarperOne).
Senior managing editor Mark Galli sat down with Foster in his home in Colorado to talk about the genesis of his lifelong work in spiritual formation, and how the disciplines have shaped him personally.
Let's begin at the beginning of your spiritual formation: How did you become a Christian?
My conversion came as a young teenager, early high-school years. Youth for Christ was prominent in that, as well as a local congregation, Alameda Friends Church in Garden ...