Meanderings

Spiritual Formation: A Definition

Link: Companions in Christ | Tools & Tips.

Although many reading this article are familiar, even comfortable, with spiritual formation, you may find the following definition a helpful tool as you attempt to define spiritual formation for others:

Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ by the gracious working of God’s spirit, for the transformation of the world.

1. a process:

  • gradual, life-long movement, not single, momentous conversion
  • goes against grain of "quick-fix, instant results, Five Easy Steps" culture
  • draws us by God’s magnetic attraction, awakening our desire for God

2. of being conformed to the image of Christ:

  • Christ is the image of God made visible to us (Col.1:15)
  • image of Christ is pattern of human wholeness — we share God’s image (Gen.1:26)
  • God’s likeness feels strange since we are misshapen by images of worldly culture
  • the Christ image heals, renews, restores us
  • moves us from being centered in self to being centered in God

3. by the gracious working of God’s spirit:

  • we want to make things happen in our self-reliant culture
  • but cannot conform ourselves to Christ by own will power
  • we can open ourselves to gracious working of God’s spirit
  • the Spirit enables us to choose way of Christ over self-interest
  • grace helps us give reins of control to God and to cooperate with Spirit
  • we resist Spirit’s work because change in ideas/habits/ behaviors is scary
  • spiritual disciplines (practices) are ways of opening ourselves to grace

4. for the transformation of the world:

  • being like Christ means living in self-giving love
  • spiritual life not about "me" but about the world God loves
  • as we are conformed to Christ we embody more of God’s love for others
  • fruits of spiritual formation are compassion, patience, truthfulness, reconciliation
  • transformed persons are leaven for transforming the world

This definition adapts and expands Robert Mulholland’s work Invitation to a Journey (InterVarsity Press, 1993). Companions in Christ Training © 2004. All rights reserved.