Solitude and Silence

(August/September 2012 – Volume 18, Issue 4) In a world filled with noise, many of us long to “unplug” and find a quiet spot far from the hum of technology, the demands of work, the cries of children, the ubiquitous call of advertisement, the hype of politicians and the bombardment of world news.  To escape, even for a few minutes, and find rest for our souls is an almost universal longing in modern times, especially in the West. When this rest is accompanied with time alone with God, it provides the refreshment and strength that we need to face the pressures of everyday living in a fast paced age. For these reasons, when spiritual leaders start talking about silence and solitude, our ears perk up and we yearn to adopt the teachings and techniques they recommend.  For most of my lifetime I have heard people refer to their habit...

Sacred Reading (Lectio Divina)

(June/July 2012 – Volume 18, Issue 3) As we have seen in the last two Think on These Things articles, “Spiritual formation is viewed by a growing number of evangelicals as an ancient ministry of the church, concerned with the ‘forming’ or ‘shaping’ of a believer’s character and actions into the likeness of Christ.”   Spiritual formation is distinguished from biblical discipleship primarily by its source of authority and its methodology.  On the one hand, discipleship as defined by the Bible turns to the Word of God as the final and ultimate authority over all matters of life and godliness.  This means that if one truly desires to be a follower of Jesus Christ, he will turn to the inspired Scriptures to determine both truth and how to “observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:20).  Spiritual formation pays lip-service to Scripture but the true source behind...

Contemplative Prayer

(April/May 2012 – Volume 18, Issue 2) Of all the spiritual disciplines the Spiritual Formation Movement promotes, none is more important than prayer and the intake of God’s Word. On the surface we would expect little resistance to these two disciplines since they have been recognized as essential to spiritual growth by virtually all Christians from all traditions. Sadly, upon closer examination we discover that what is meant by most evangelical Christians when they reference prayer and Bible intake is not always what the leaders within spiritual formation mean. We begin with Donald Whitney, Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at Southern Seminary, who agrees with Carl Lundquist, The New Testament church built two other disciplines upon prayer and Bible study, the Lord’s Supper and small cell groups. John Wesley emphasized five works of piety by adding fasting. The medieval mystics wrote about nine disciplines clustered around three experiences: purgation...

Spiritual Formation

(February/March 2012 – Volume 18, Issue 1) Almost everyone on the cutting edge of Christianity is talking about spiritual formation.  From books to magazine articles to sermons to seminary courses, spiritual formation is a hot topic.  What is spiritual formation?  What does it teach?  Is it something to embrace, ignore or fight?  With this edition of Think on These Things I want to begin an examination of these questions and more.  Lord willing, all of the TOTTs articles in 2012 will be devoted to detailing and evaluating some aspect of what some have called the “Spiritual Formation Movement.”  In this lead article I intend to offer a definition of spiritual formation, trace its origins, mention a few of its practices, illustrate its recent popularity, and briefly identify its strengths and dangers. In Search of a Definition When the average person speaks of spiritual formation they assume that it is...