November 20, 2017

Another Look: Who and What Are Forming You?

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A classic IM post by Michael Spencer from April, 2007.

Every time I feel like I have lost my way in the Christian life, I find myself back looking at monasticism, and the lessons I learned in two decades of reading Thomas Merton.

I’m not attracted to Catholicism, but I am very much attracted to the tradition of self-conscious, disciplined spiritual formation into a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is a great failing of our side of the church.

As much as we Protestants talk about being shaped by the Bible alone, most evangelicals are thoroughly formed and shaped by the communities where the Bible is handled, taught and practiced according to a “rule” or accepted authority, and by the media that supports and communicates the values of that community.

It is, without a doubt, one of the most appealing and positive aspects of Catholicism that it is self-conscious about its “rules” and authorities for spiritual formation. (Rule as in “way,” as in The Rule of Benedict.) It surely must be humorous to knowledgeable Catholics to look at the various sects, denominations and varieties of evangelicalism and fundamentalism, all claiming to “just read the Bible.”

For a large portion of my recent evangelical journey, I have found myself wandering between three varieties of evangelicalism:

1) Southern Baptist fundamentalism
2) Evangelical Calvinism
3) Generic contemporary evangelical revivalism

All of these communities could be characterized as shaping the spiritualities of believers according to largely unwritten rules and authorities.

The closest thing you get to self-conscious spiritual formation among most evangelicals: Jabez, Purpose Driven Life, or an evangelism course. Or a cruise.

It has occurred to me that at least two of these streams have done much to shape me in the belief that pursuing polemic argument is a primary expression of discipleship. I have been affected by this kind of spiritual “rule,” and when I step away from it, the effects are very obvious.

Lots of time is taken up in finding error, pointing out error, justifying the seriousness of the error (even if it is in a non-essential area), and responding to the error with the proper arrangement of Biblical material.

It’s amazing how many Christians conceive of almost the entirety of discipleship in terms of argumentation. This is seen in the pastoral models they choose, the books/blogs they write and the spiritual activities they value most (debate and classroom lecture.)

These largely unarticulated forms of spiritual formation can be seen in what is not important. I note with interest that one simply cannot say enough bad about most kinds of contemplative prayer, and any sort of silence among many of the reformed particularly. Any kind of intentional approach to spiritual formation, and any kind of intentional approach to discipleship (Dallas Willard, for example) is undertaken amidst a barrage of criticism. If the imagination is mentioned, all fire alarms are pulled and a search for Oprah Winfrey ensues.

14535833307_44abcc45c4_zMe thinks the lady doth protest too much.

The “fully formed” Christian in these traditions is not a person of silence, but of much talking, talking and more talking. Worship is lecture, a rally, or an emotion-centered event. The primary encounter with the Bible is exposition and lecture. Correcting theological error, moral error and ecclesiastical error is the main business of the church.

In other forms of evangelicalism spiritual formation is done under the guise of church growth and using ones “gifts” to grow the church. Or perhaps in the cause of righteous, upright living in the culture war. Again, the kinds of prayer, worship, community life and worship that are generated by these priorities are obvious to most observers, but largely invisible to the participants.

In all the years I was reading Merton’s spiritual direction writings, I can’t recall anything I would call polemic of any kind. He simply didn’t waste his life arguing with others. He read scripture constantly, but as the stuff of prayer, liturgy and meditation, not as the raw material for debate. He went through the “political years” when he was critical of his church for not living up to his standards of peacemaking and justice, but in the end it was the ancient life, the deep life of monastic rhythms that sustained Merton and made him a man and a monk. He worked on himself for a lifetime. Some will say because he didn’t believe in the reformation doctrine of justification. Perhaps. Maybe, however, the path of personal spiritual formation isn’t as instant, passive or automatic as we’ve been told.

I’m not holding Merton up as an ideal. Far from it. I’m simply saying that when one’s spirituality is formed by the pronouncements of pastors who are constantly chasing church growth, the culture war or the latest challenge to Calvinism, you are going to get one result, and when you go back to the sources, find the value of the ancient paths of formation, value silence, read, meditate, contemplate and seek to grow in love, you will get another result.

I can’t help but think there is an “internet Christian” spirituality as well. Formed by reading blogs. Expressing itself in writing. Concerned with all the perceptions of reality that run rampant on the net. I’m sure this isn’t a good thing either.

Spiritual formation happens in the real world. It’s not just reading, but it’s discussion and asking questions of those further down the road. It’s having leaders who are humble before the Word, and not leaders who take the word and become the pictures of arrogance. It’s seeing your sin in the light of holiness, not excusing your sin in the light of the latest crisis.

Much evangelical spirituality has become like fantasy baseball. We have our own league, our own team, our own statistics, our own insulated world in which all of this matters. We can give great speeches and write long posts (and I am the chief of sinners here) on what doesn’t matter much at all. These days, we don’t all get our 15 minutes of fame, but we can all worship a pastor, go to a winning church, opine on a blog, imagine our arguments are significant in the world.

Meanwhile, we start to look and act more like a fantasy league junky, and fewer and fewer people have any idea what we are talking about.

Here is where I have come out on this:

  • Get the devotional books out. The old ones.
  • Read Peterson, and Nouwen, and Fr. Groeschel, and Bonhoeffer and Whitney. With a group of others who care about the same things.
  • Turn it all off for a couple of hours every day.
  • Find the silence.
  • Chew up, meditate over, digest the scriptures.
  • Repent of living in the community of unaware evangelicals who devalue spirituality and overvalue polemic, argument and debate.
  • Look for the sins that grow in this mess, and root them up.

Comments

  1. The 1st suggestion would be good if they were Cross centered devotions. There are a lot of bad (self-focused) devotionals out there. Even in the old ones.

    The rest of the suggestions you can keep with the exception of reading the Scriptures. That never hurts…unless one doesn’t understand the importance of reading them through a grace scheme, and not a legal scheme.

    • Q.E.D.

      • You would not believe how many times I have to explain my car’s license tag, which reads thus. I’m glad someone else knows what it means.

    • flatrocker says:

      > The rest of the suggestions you can keep

      So Steve,
      If we changed them to read:

      Pay no mind to Peterson, Nouwen et.al. They’re of no practical use anyway.
      Keep the churn in our lives going 24/7, all day, every day.
      Embrace the noise.
      Set a goal to live in a constant state of polemic, argumentation and debate.
      Look past the sins that are rooted here, there’s truth to be hammered out.

      does that make them more acceptable?

    • “Lots of time is taken up in finding error, pointing out error, justifying the seriousness of the error (even if it is in a non-essential area), and responding to the error with the proper arrangement of Biblical material.

      It’s amazing how many Christians conceive of almost the entirety of discipleship in terms of argumentation.”

      An astute observation from Mr. Spencer – worthwhile to reflect on..

    • Steve:
      It is fitting that your comment is the first one. Because perhaps unknowingly it is an example of what Spencer was talking about.

    • You need to get with the religious self-improvement program.

      Time’s a wastin’

    • Steve, you must realize that, by and large, you are not taken seriously anymore. You might consider how you have created that scenario. It would disturb me and cause me to reflect. Perhaps seek the counsel of your pastor. I don’t imagine he endorses the way you have seemingly removed one color out of the rainbow and said that it is light to the exclusion of all the others. I think if he really knew the full breadth of your thinking he would correct you and it sounds like you respect him. It really has become a sideshow and I feel bad every time I see it.

    • I like Steve’s take on things. He’s rooted on the MAIN things: Jesus and the Cross. Can he be a little extreme? Sure. But his take on things is a good reminder and warning to us all to always come back to Jesus and the Cross.

      Reading stuff by various authors is great. Peterson, Nouwen, Fr. Groeschel, Bonhoeffer Whitney – I’ll throw in Chambers and Manning, others might throw in MacArthur and Piper – anyway, reading these guys is great. But how often is it that suddenly all you hear about in conversations with other Christians is Peterson, Nouwen, Bonhoeffer, Whitney, etc.? I was at a Christian conference once when the speaker had FORGOTTEN TO BRING A BIBLE, but he did have other books at his ready! That tells me the guy was never even intending to crack open the scriptures!

      So the danger is, the more you read of OTHER people, the less you read of the Bible. The more you read of OTHER people, the more removed you are of the gospel, and suddenly you begin touting what OTHERS say the scriptures say, without ever reading what they say yourself.

      Keep us rooted, Steve!

      • Part of me says you are right Rick Ro.

        And then the other part of me says it is a bit like the Chatty Cathy doll that was around when I was a kid.

        Pull the string and you will get one of 3 or 4 canned lines.

        After awhile it is tiring.

        • Jesus and the Cross.

          Jesus and the Cross.

          Jesus and the Cross.

          It’s a good canned line, no?

          • (Counterpoint being, maybe, that Jesus never seemed to use canned lines.)

          • flatrocker says:

            Jesus and the Cross…hmmm….didn’t they tour with the Second Temple Pilates a few years back?

          • And the New Nine Inch Nails…

          • Jesus and the cross I have no problem with (my flesh does).
            But an attitude of I am right and everything I don’t like the sound of is wrong gets old and tired

        • I have found value in what Steve has been saying and it has caused me to look at it and spend time reflecting upon it. Certainly there is good there. I have a friend with a similar attitude. I really like him but unfortunately I mostly try to stay away from him. I remember a Bible study he was leading and he started cutting everything down before he started. Things people were doing, things people believed and how they were all so wrong. I am not saying Steve is like this at all. I don’t know him. There are these things expressed that came from my friend as well. I use to avoid my friend but because of what I have been reading I think I will reopen this part of my life. I am centered better than I ever have been maybe it is worth another take.

  2. I love to read Thomas Merton. Even the reading is a slowing down & my two year old son many years ago asked me to read aloud some writings because he liked ” the sound of the words”.
    I am a Roman Catholic. I enjoy your posts and they make me think. May I suggest though, that you don’t pre apologise for writing about the good things in Roman Catholicism or make your stance so much to do with distancing yourself from it by writing such things as “I’m not holding Merton up as the ideal” or “I’m not attracted to Catholicism”? We know you’re not! That’s what is good about your discovering our disciplines. It just can look patronising and we RC’s are perfectly ok with our Protestant friends having difficulties with our tradition.
    It’s about seeing with loving eyes isn’t it? Exactly how Merton was.
    Thanks for your sharings.

    • Asinus Spinas Masticans says:

      Actually, the words are Mike Spencer’s, not CM’s.

      Mike Spencer had a strange and wonderful relationship to the Catholic Church in that his wife converted to Catholicism, but he was not in the least attracted to it. During his last years with us, Mike continually pleaded with the Catholic correspondents on the board not to “count coup” for Catholicism. After all, if Denise was unable to muster sufficient arguments to move him towards Rome, it was unlikely anybody on the Internet would.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      ““I’m not attracted to Catholicism””

      I found this phrase, dropped in as it seems, to be awkward as well.

      How often does one say “I do not find you attractive?”. Off-putting, and it has the problem of not having a definite meaning [“attraction” is an odd thing].

      But this is a quibble, and the author is sadly not with us to respond.

      • Michael Spencer’s wife converted to Catholicism, and that caused some turmoil for a while. He may have been referring to that.

    • “That’s what is good about your discovering our disciplines.”

      Actually, they don’t belong to the Roman Catholic Church, and they are utilized by many outside of Roman Catholicism. In fact, they are used by people outside of Christianity, and have been for a long time.

      Merton himself had one foot firmly over the threshold of another religious tradition, Zen Buddhism, in which he found spiritual resources that complemented and paralleled some of the ones he had previously found in Roman Catholicism. If you read Merton’s Asian Journal, you will see that he did not think of the disciplines you are referring to as belonging to Roman Catholicism, or Christianity, but as the gift of God to humanity.

      It was in the universality of these practices, and the experiences that they produce, that he found a commonality among all monks, of whatever religious tradition. If anyone reads Merton without understanding the ecumenical mysticism that he embraced in the last decade of his life, then they misunderstand him. The Merton of the 60’s would have been appalled by the idea that any spiritual disciplines belong uniquely to Roman Catholicism, and he would have been the first to tell you that sometimes it is easier to discover the disciplines you need in another tradition than in your own, even though they may have been there all along.

  3. the belief that pursuing polemic argument is a primary expression of discipleship. I have been affected by this kind of spiritual “rule,” and when I step away from it, the effects are very obvious. Lots of time is taken up in finding error, pointing out error, justifying the seriousness of the error (even if it is in a non-essential area), and responding to the error with the proper arrangement of Biblical material. It’s amazing how many Christians conceive of almost the entirety of discipleship in terms of argumentation. This is seen in the pastoral models they choose, the books/blogs they write and the spiritual activities they value most (debate and classroom lecture.) These largely unarticulated forms of spiritual formation can be seen in what is not important.

    As I continue to ponder my prior Christian life and the hold it still has on me, this rings even louder now than it did when Michael first wrote it. The emphasis in the paths I walked (neo-Calvinism and sectarian Anglicanism) was on TRUTH. And the form of discipleship above characterizes it to a tee. Of course, the last sentence of the quote above (hopefully the highlight worked) puts the lie to that. Truth is important – but as St Paul said in I Corinthians 13, the greatest way of discipleship is love [and truth without love is a clanging gong]. The life/way of Christ on earth as recorded in the Gospels should also be a correction to that tendency. Why it isn’t…?

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      The thing about TRUTH, at least in my experience, is that it is hard as diamond. What you get by constantly rubbing it is that you wear yourself down. TRUTH is exhausting, and a meticulous and unforgiving master.

      It took me years to finally conceptualize that I’d lost a lot of my fascination with TRUTH; when I walked out of Evangelicalism, into some dim gray years. I’d lost the goal – which was in great measure about TRUTH. What other goal could there possibly be? What in life can be measured against the pursuit of TRUTH?

      My mother always kept the poem my Louisa May Alcott on the wall next to the phone. I’d seen it so many times I could recite it before I could remember being able to recite anything else. It seemed trite and cliche to adolescent me [but then, what didn’t?].

      ‘I slept, and dreamed that life was beauty;
      I woke, and found that life was duty.
      Was thy dream then a shadowy lie?
      Toil on, sad heart, courageously,
      And thou shall find thy dream to be
      A noonday light and truth to thee.

      That annoying little poem, that now feels like a prophecy for the first half of my life. I entirely missed the point for decades.

      • Dana Ames says:

        True this.

        TRUTH and trying to study up enough and gather up enough intellectual weaponry to be able to irrefutably argue for it did indeed wear me down. I got to the point where, against the bent of my personality and the stated goals of the types of churches of which I had been part for nearly 30 years, I just didn’t care anymore about “Being Right.” I loved Jesus and couldn’t see myself as anything but Christian, but I hit a brick wall with this and other important stuff.

        Thanks for the poem, Adam. (I like Mule’s name for you… is it ok to call you Finn?) LMA was my very favorite author when I was a child.

        Dana

      • Dr. Fundystan, Proctologist says:

        I think the TRUTH project founders in much of American Evangelicalism for two reasons.
        1) Most everyone in evangelicalism that stresses truth adheres to a modernist, empirical-rational epistemology. This is the epistemology of the sub-unit: truth is found in breaking things down. The problem with this approach is that it is insufficient to address the complexity of the world we live in; even for materialists. If you break a bee down, you don’t just get the parts of a bee – you also get a dead bee. And the horizons of quantum physics are rapidly demonstrating the limits of our common epistemology.
        2) No one in the period in which the Bible was written or the creeds or the foundation of the church held this epistemology.
        3) Jesus said “I am the truth” which is virtually impossible to justify with the former epistemology.

        All that to say, that I think most of the evangelicals I am familiar with who stress “the TRUTH” are actually pursuing a project and foundation that haven’t got much to do with the Bible or historic faith.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          As well as TRUTH via Argumentation, Polemic, and Debate leads to the following things:

          In debate, the goal becomes to WIN at all costs, browbeating the Other into submission. TRUTH(TM) gets lost or redefined as “I WIN”, and Winning Justifies Anything. I had this used on me in other contexts — ever had a Berkely debating champ beat you down as to how Soviet Communism is Morally and Intellectually Superior?

          Or you get off on your own little Theological Argumentative Tangent, like those Pharisees that Jesus was always butting heads with.

          And what about those who get beat down in the constant Fighting and Counting Coup (with words and theoreticals instead of coup sticks)? You end up singing Blue Oyster Cult (Veterans of the Psychic Wars) before you go over the wall and just Get Away From All That.

        • One of the best things ever said in my hearing by a pastor — actually it was an associate pastor — was that the Christian world seems to be composed of “grace” people and “truth” people, and the grace people need more truth and the truth people need more grace. Such changes might make all of us a whole lot more like Jesus.

          “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH [emphasis mine].” –John 1:14

          • Brianthedad says:

            Very insightful statement by the pastor. I’ll have to remember that when I swing too far infrared or ultraviolet (HT to ChrisS’ spectrum analogy above)

          • Yes, people (and THEOLOGIES) would be healthier spiritually if they realized it’s grace AND truth.

  4. Christiane says:

    Chaplain MIKE, this is a winner:
    ” . . . when one’s spirituality is formed by the pronouncements of pastors who are constantly chasing church growth, the culture war or the latest challenge to Calvinism, you are going to get one result,
    and when you go back to the sources, find the value of the ancient paths of formation, value silence, read, meditate, contemplate and seek to grow in love, you will get another result.”

    • +1……… Most of the time it is somewhere in the middle of it all I find this place. Yesterday as I contemplated Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, mind and soul and love thy neighbor as thyself I kept running the second part front to back and back to front. I realized that the whole of the three thoughts are not to be separated. I started to wonder how bad I am at loving myself and I come to the conclusion the only way to know is to go into the depths of what God is saying about me. Of course the rift between Him and I have been repaired from His standpoint. Grace seems to me existent from before my first breath and even responsible for my consciousness. I need so badly to spend time with Him. It is from this base of correction because of love I learn how to love. I don’t have to be right or to prove it even when the pull to do so is so strong. Sometimes within the silence is the patience of a love that would allow Him to work the way He would with those He loves and the confidence that He is as He is with me. I realize that within the changes occurring that I am not completely right yet and that I have not arrived but I am going there. It has occurred to me in my later years that I will only go so far here. My hope is still that those who are so young will go so much further. Last night as I flipped through the channels and try to watch Christian television I saw such arrogance in the way things were being presented. Now to be sure I can’t say that about everything but still what I saw was like this. I wonder sometimes how anyone could be drawn to such things. That was just a side note to what stuck out to me in this post. The young men I know and who are walking a lost path are not so stupid and they have enough trouble in their lives without someone pointing out which is the right doctrine in which they should follow as if Christ is not capable of this. Mostly I just want for them to talk to Him.

  5. I can’t help but think there is an “internet Christian” spirituality as well. Formed by reading blogs. Expressing itself in writing. Concerned with all the perceptions of reality that run rampant on the net. I’m sure this isn’t a good thing either.

    Now, wait just a minute! … um, there’s nothing wrong with any of those things!

    Much evangelical spirituality has become like fantasy baseball. We have our own league, our own team, our own statistics, our own insulated world in which all of this matters. We can give great speeches and write long posts (and I am the chief of sinners here) on what doesn’t matter much at all. These days, we don’t all get our 15 minutes of fame, but we can all worship a pastor, go to a winning church, opine on a blog, imagine our arguments are significant in the world.
    Meanwhile, we start to look and act more like a fantasy league junky, and fewer and fewer people have any idea what we are talking about.

    ok, that one hit hard. but my league is not like those other leagues! or it’s better than those leagues.

    (takes time out to re-read this over ice cream…)

    • And in all seriousness, it is shocking how exhausting and time-consuming it is to be a league junky…

      • (hmm… this was a reply/add-on to another comment I made… lost it the commenting ether?)

  6. Silence is it for me these days. The silence at the core of everything, and I mean everything, is heard when you listen for it. In fact, it would be loud if it wasn’t silence. Even in noise it is perceptible. There is silence between the atoms. It permeates the universe. In fact, besides us clanging symbols, I’m guessing that all the noise in the universe at any one time could be canned, so to speak, and played through a few hefty stereo systems. Loud is the minority position.

  7. David Cornwell says:

    “Repent of living in the community of unaware evangelicals who devalue spirituality and overvalue polemic, argument and debate.”

    Something very similar to this also takes place in some liberal circles. The similarities are striking. For instance take Bishop Spong and some of his arguments. Or the Jesus Seminar as they attempt to reconstruct the real Jesus.

    In some ways the two extremes found in the Church are mirror reflections of each other. Both are tiresome and without much real value.

  8. OldProphet says:

    I love this blog. It’s some of the most stimulating and challenging dialog that I’ve had in a long time. My question is, I value prayer, silence, meditation, bible study, and I am slowing moving into a liturgical style of worship, but as a lifetime charismatic, how does the manifest power of God fit in to ancient traditions? After all, in the upper room on Pentecost, they were not having a bible study

    • Dana Ames says:

      OP,

      What I found was that the deeper I went into the ancient traditions, the more I came to see that Reality is One Thing – not divided into 2 storeys, the material/physical/”worldly” and the “spiritual.” In that one reality, I saw the Holy Spirit at work in many, many more ways than through “charismatic phenomena” alone. I was a member of one of the original Vineyard churches for a few years, the best years of my Evangelical experience, so I know the best of what it’s like for “God to show up” in charismatic-flavored worship.

      I don’t have any problem with people who pray in “tongues,” for example; I simply have come to find a lot of beauty and depth in older English prayers, and even older prayers than those, translated into English from other languages. For years I used P. Tickle’s BCP-based “Divine Hours” combined with the Northumbria Community Daily Prayer – the best of English prayer, old and new. This language touched a place in my inner being to which charismatic-style prayer actually pointed, but never quite reached – the beauty and depth that I eventually found in the English words that were not my own but became my own, in communion with the others who were praying those words, too.

      Rather than reverting to “tongues,” I have found the most useful thing to pray when I don’t know what to pray is “Lord, have mercy.” In the eastern church tradition, this has nothing to do with any idea that the cross was somehow not “enough” and that we are continuing to beg God’s forgiveness. Rather, it is asking God to pour out his healing (whatever that looks like – he knows and I don’t) on whatever the situation is. (The Greek word for mercy has the same stem as the word for olive, and when one said “olive” in Greek, one meant “olive oil” – which was seen in the ancient world as the go-to cure-all for any physical ailment.)

      Long answer – my 2 cents 😉

      Dana

      • David Cornwell says:

        Good answer also.

      • Thank you for your insight Dana I have a desire to search out what you are talking about

      • OldProphet says:

        Thanks Dana. It’s good insight. I was in the Vineyard for many years. Signs and Wonders conferences, Paul Cain, Tom Stipe, Jackson, Buckle, et al. All powerful stuff. But that’s gone. It’s all about going deep in Christ now, about the ancient faith, the liturgical life. I’m on a totally different search now

        • you went from Vineyard to what/whom ?? I was Vineyard from ’88 to 2011.

        • Dana Ames says:

          We were there from ’82 to ’89 – moved away, no church problems – were gone before the controversies. Went to an Ev. Free Church – least objectionable at that time in our small community. Those were 10 pretty dry years, but I kept up with Vineyard happenings through continuing to listening to the Sunday services on cassette tapes. Helped immensely near the end of those years by finding the Northumbria Community and D. Willard’s “Divine Conspiracy” fairly close in time to one another. Those 2 things were the beginning of the end of Evangelicalism for me, though I didn’t know it then. Then 9 years at a PCUSA church, a good place to rest and regroup while EO snuck up on me from left field 🙂

          Dana

    • David Cornwell says:

      This is just my opinion, but God being sovereign, the Holy Spirit will come when the time is right. The sovereign God can interrupt the silence, a bible study, or a group of praying people. I’d say: “don’t worry about it.”

      I once had a seminary prof who pointed out that the Holy Spirit comes in unexpected times and places, not always as we expect or desire. And may mess up our theology in the process.

      Someone else will have a different take.

  9. We use an Anabaptist devotional called “Take Our Moments and Our Days; An Anabaptist Prayer Book”
    It isn’t old(2007) and we’re not Anabaptist. They preface it by saying “our hope is that through these morning and evening prayers, believers may experience the truth of the Psalmist’s words of praise: ‘You make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy'(Ps.65:8). Volume 1 is ordinary time( liturgically from Pentecost to Advent). Volume 2 is Advent to Pentecost. It is so helpful on issues like commitment, the relationship of individual and corporate prayer, unplanned and set prayers, and fixed time and unceasing prayer. It is so much more….a daily focused worship, call to discipleship, intercession.

  10. 12 years in evangelicalism, and spiritual formation has been part of my journey since Day 1. I realize some may see that as an outlier to the mainstream, but I don’t know much else.

    Even when I chose to wade into the YRR waters so I could find a group to give me an identity, I was surrounded with Thomas á Kempis, Brother Lawrence, the Fathers and others. Even when I entered seminary hoping to prove that I belonged with my heady knowledge, I knew of Eugene Peterson, Henri Nouwen, Tozer and others.

    I have not always chosen the wise path of spiritual formation, but I have always had the opportunities. I know no evangelicalism without it.