Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered: Growing in Christ through Community
By James C. Wilhoit
Baker Academic, February 2008
240 pp., $17.99

"Spiritual formation is the task of the church. Period." That's how James C. Wilhoit opens his new book, Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered. Wilhoit, professor of Christian formation and ministry at Wheaton College, has been teaching about spiritual formation since 1981. He says he owes a great debt in his own spiritual formation to Dallas Willard, whose foreword to Wilhoit's book reiterates the theme: spiritual formation, he says, is the "central problem facing the contemporary church."

Wilhoit spoke about the book and how churches often misunderstand the task of formation.

Your title suggests that most people do not have the church in mind when they talk about spiritual formation.

A lot of the patterns of spiritual formation give a sense that the church doesn't matter. These are things that you could largely do on your own. I came to write this book after people would sometimes call me and say, "We're interested in doing spiritual formation in the church."

And I asked, "What are you doing?"

"Oh, we're using Richard Foster in this class on spiritual disciplines."

But teaching a couple of classes on Celebration of Discipline is not what it would mean for the church to be about its business of formation.

So when you talk about spiritual disciplines, you're not just talking about the 13 that Richard Foster outlined in that book?

Certainly you have those classic disciplines that Foster talks about. But the trouble with those disciplines is they can become kind of "quiet time only" activities. So I want to put emphasis those disciplines that are distinctively relational. We ...

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