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Three Temptations of Spiritual Formation
Spiritual formation is in. One generation ago, evangelical Protestants had hardly heard of the phrase. Now many evangelical seminaries offer programs in spiritual formation. Renovaré, which Richard Foster and others founded in 1989 to cultivate spiritual formation (especially among evangelicals), today offers retreats and resources worldwide. The popular evangelical psychologist Larry Crabb now holds seminars in becoming a spiritual director.
Twenty years ago we were dissatisfied with shallow, rushed "quiet times," longing for resources to help us toward a more meaningful, life-changing interaction with God. Today things are different. For better and for worse, we have more resources available for spiritual formation than we know what to do with.
Formation, like the forming of a pot from clay, brings to mind shaping and molding, helping something potential become something actual. Spiritual formation speaks of a shaping process with reference to the spiritual dimension of a person's life. Christian spiritual formation thus refers to the process by which believers become more fully conformed and united to Christ.
I have been involved in spiritual formation for over 20 years, having stumbled in just as interest was beginning to develop in the evangelical community. I am now watching my students feel the influence of this movement. The growing interest in spiritual formation is, for the most part, very healthy, and can be found in mainline, traditional evangelical, and Pentecostal/charismatic circles. Yet within each of these traditions, tendencies lurk that can rob this movement of authenticity—the authenticity needed to propel this movement into effective personal and social transformation.
Mainline And Christian
Interest in spirituality ...1