Revisiting the Call to Spiritual Formation

Well, it’s been two years since The Spiritual Formation Alliance gathered people together to write a definition of spiritual formation, available online at the Call to Spiritual Formation site.  Has anything happened with it since then?  It seems not.

I wasn’t terribly happy with the definition back then, and with nothing changing, I’m not overly happy with it now, so this doesn’t hurt me any.  I was just glancing back through the archives here and spotted it, and I wondered what had become of it.  Few additional people have signed their agreement to it, including some of those supposedly involved in its creation, and I haven’t caught references to it from the formation community or books (though I’ll admit that I haven’t been reading too much beyond academic mumbo jumbo lately, what with my studies).   Google doesn’t even register any links to it.  It seems like a project that didn’t actually go anywhere.

As I said, this doesn’t overly rankle me, though it does give evidence of the disparity of the formation ideal.  There isn’t a cohesiveness to the interest in spiritual formation.  There is no major association or definition that seems to tie things together, and I imagine that’s reflective of the times.  People have been struggling for a while to define the Evangelical Church when such a moniker gathers groups from various different denominations while not generally encompassing the whole of any.  We know what it is when we see it, but we don’t know how to define it.

There are figureheads and forerunners to the community, like Willard, Foster, and Barton, but they aren’t leaders at the same time.  They do not define the path for everyone.  I don’t agree with everything that any one of them says, though I appreciate much of their work.  The same could surely be said of others like me.  The community in some ways really does act like a community move than an organization.  That might be a good thing.

There may not be a particular point to my musing here at the moment.  Perhaps I’m just voicing my own pondering.  The Call to Spiritual Formation seemed to have come and gone.  I hope it did good while it was here.  Perhaps it stirred some of those involved in writing it to more carefully consider things.  Perhaps it stirred others like me to more critically examine our own ideas.  God will have used it as He will, but it seems it may not have had the impact or import that the designers intended.  Perhaps even for themselves.


2 responses

  1. Hi Matthew,

    I echo your observation and disappointment. I was excited when the Call went out even when I did not agree with all they said. See my post here. There has not been happening since them. Yes, there is a plethora of new publications, mainly from the same people and mainly about spiritual practices.

    I have often wondered about this. In some way, spiritual formation has became mainstream as you find it mentioned everywhere. Unfortunately it seems to be absorbed and ‘defanged’ by the religious institutions.

    July 8, 2011 at 12:44 am

  2. Amy

    Hi Matthew. Glad A Call to Spiritual Formation is on your radar. I was part of the group that developed the statement. There were 150 contributors to it’s crafting – all with their own twists on the journey. The resulting statement was their Biblically-based consensus. As you’ve probably read, it was meant to help establish agreement around the message and theological foundations of Christian spiritual formation. The intent is that it would inspire those following Jesus to embrace a lifelong process of spiritual growth personally and – as a result– to see that transformational growth expressed in our churches and greater aspects of culture.

    Beyond that, our hope is that A Call to Spiritual Formation starts conversations like this one: So what would you like to see done now? How can we help? We’ve heard from many who have put it to work in many settings already for individual reflection, on blogs like yours, for group discussions, to rally people to be Jesus for the benefit of others, and used to help many (not just “leaders”) explain the tenants of what formation into Christ-likeness is all about. I’d love to hear what your hopes were –and are– going forward.

    From what I hear, it is continuing to spark connections, conversation, and growth within the spiritual formation community. That in itself is productive…as is your “musing.”


    September 19, 2011 at 2:30 pm

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