Mike Cope's blog

Monday, February 06, 2006

Today, I am interviewing one of my elders, David Wray, for the blog. There's so much I could tell you about David. First, the obvious. The guy is tall. Real tall (6'9"). Have you seen "Glory Road"? The year after they won the national title, David played against them when he was ACU's center. He's a godly husband, father, and granddad. As an elder, he is a constant source of wisdom. He has more administrative gifts in his pinkie than I have in my whole body. And he's been a guiding force of spirituality in my life. I've talked to lots of ACU students who describe his spiritual formation class as one of the most significant times of their lives. So today, I'm asking him a few questions about spiritual formation. 1. What do we mean by "spiritual formation"? In a sentence, spiritual formation is the process of maturing (some add "yielding one's self to being conformed") into the image of Jesus Christ for the sake of others. The objective is integrating the virtues and practices of Jesus into the daily life of every disciple of Jesus. Growing in the Christlife includes spiritual information, spiritual formation and spiritual transformation. Spiritual information requires being people of scripture. Christlikeness requires that Christians live in the gospels and there discover the heart, thoughts, and behaviors of Jesus. If we are to imitate him, we must rationally think through the principles by which he taught, related to people, and practiced disciplines that we refer to as "spiritual disciplines." Sermons, daily reading and reflecting on scripture, Bible classes, small group Bible studies, and many other forums enhance one's maturing in spiritual information. Spiritual formation places high value on relationships and spiritual community. In addition to information about Jesus, all disciples need brothers and sisters who provide mentoring, spiritual direction, encouragement, accountability, equipping for ministry, and shepherding. Authentic spiritual community is required in the formation process. No one is able to make the journey of life without brothers and sisters in the Lord. Small groups, shepherding groups, parenting, mission trips, and many other venues provide ideal opportunities for spiritual formation. Spiritual disciplines encourage Christians in contemplative spirituality (listening to God, "wasting time" with God) Spiritual transformation often occurs through losses and times of struggle. Almost all disciples experience times of the "dark night of the soul" as they move through life. These times require that Christians draw on scripture (spiritual information) and spiritual community (spiritual formation) to regain mental, emotional, and spiritual equilibrium. 2. Why has this become such a passion of your heart in your teaching at ACU, at Highland, and around the country? Historically those associated with the Stone/Campbell movement relied heavily on rational spiritually. Convinced that biblical knowledge leads to holy living, we emphasized sermons and Bible classes. Campbell was fond of saying "come let us reason together." When problems arose in our congregations, church leaders admonished the preacher to develop a sermon series on the subject or asked educational leadership to develop classes to solve the issue. Convinced that information primarily made disciples of Jesus, we eagerly embraced teaching/learning innovations to insure biblical literacy. We now realize that our sermons and worship assemblies engaged left brained (linear and sequential) people while often ignoring right brained (spontaneous and relational) people. Since Bible study provided our organizational principle we invested billions of dollars on "auditoriums" (our language betrays us--others call their assembly space "worship centers" or "sanctuaries") and classrooms. Spiritual formation provides a path that appreciates spiritual information, but encourages us to drink from other streams of holiness, social justice, authentic spiritual community, and the inner life (solitude, silence, prayer). Thankfully many Christians currently live more holistically as they grow spiritually through their intellects, emotions, and relationships. This emphasis on holistic spirituality draws disciples out of the fortress church buildings and into the marketplace to live for the sake of others. This natural result of the spiritual formation process requires congregations to transition toward missional principles. Instead of congregations existing mostly to educate themselves and provide members with "goods" and "services," church leaders are encouraging disciples to welcome, receive, and embrace the reign of God, the kingdom of God, everywhere they find it, inside and outside the church building. 3. How would you help people get started exploring "spiritual formation"? Are there a couple books you could recommend or conferences that you might point people to? I argue that spiritual formation is more than reading and thinking, although both are a part of the process, but not the whole. Maturing Christians need time for reading, meditating, and contemplating, but they also need immersion experience where they walk along side people trapped in poverty and oppression, where they engage in short term (and longer term) mission experiences, and where they engage in spiritual formation groups. I also recommend ministries such as "Walk To Emmaus," "retreats for solitude, silence, and prayer," and seeking spiritual direction (ancient practice of gaining spiritual wisdom and discernment for seasoned disciple of Jesus). Having provided this disclaimer, Richard Foster provides disciples desiring to grow in Christlikeness with helpful literature. Recommended books by Foster include: Celebration of Disciplines, and Streams of Living Water. A second contemporary author of spiritual formation literature is Dallas Willard. Christians desiring to continue growing in the image of Christ benefit from his writings which include: The Spirit of the Disciplines, Divine Conspiracy, and Renovation of the Heart. Most of the thirty plus books by Henri Nouwen provide encouragement for disciples to grow deeper into Christlikeness.


  • Mike,
    Thanks for sharing David with us.

    I am one of those students who has been blessed by David's SF class, and simply by being a friend of David.

    David offers powerful insight when he suggests that churches enhance their focus on information by also encouraging spiritual formation & transformation.

    By Blogger John Grant, at 2/06/2006 08:00:00 AM  

  • Such wisdom. Such a pastor's heart. Add my name to the list of those students impacted deeply by David's Spiritual Formation class.

    OK, church...we heard it here first. What are we going to do with Dr. Wray's nuggets of wisdom? Track them back onto our own blogs, tuck them away and forget them, or put them to the test?

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 2/06/2006 08:05:00 AM  

  • I'm grateful to David for his emphasis on holistic forms of spiritual formation. He had a significant impact on my desire to serve in ministry.

    Good point, Steve. May God bless us with the wisdom to put these things into practice.

    By Blogger H. Heflin, at 2/06/2006 08:42:00 AM  

  • Great interview, spiritual formation seems to be such an easily confused topic. I think it's especially important for young christians to understand. I know personally that it is still something I'm trying to understand and follow.

    By Blogger Brandon Moore, at 2/06/2006 10:05:00 AM  

  • Thank you so much for posting this today. Wish I knew David Wray.

    By Blogger annie, at 2/06/2006 10:37:00 AM  

  • I was in a breakout session of Mr. Wray's at ZOE one year. He helped me see things in a new light.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2/06/2006 11:00:00 AM  

  • David's SF class was a significant part of the change in my spiritual walk. I will always be grateful for the blessings of the wisdom that he shared not only with me, but with my husband as well. He is truly a cup of cool water.

    By Blogger Cathy Haught, at 2/06/2006 11:01:00 AM  

  • David was an early spiritual mentor of mine when I was in high school, very influential. His definition of spiritual formation dovetails nicely with this cool website that has helped me: www.off-the-map.org.

    By Blogger tdubya, at 2/06/2006 11:28:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    I appreciate this interview of David. He really has hit some big points that we need to address in ministry.

    I am teaching this semester at George Fox Evangelical Seminary which has the reputation of being Quaker and heavily focused on spiritual formation. The faculty and my students have really impressed upon me the need for spiritual development and convicted me of our movement's need to return to this method of maturity.

    Thanks Mike and David.
    Ron Clark

    By Blogger KMiV, at 2/06/2006 12:38:00 PM  

  • I think one of the great testimonies of David's life will be this....While at ACU we experienced him in the classroom, as our Bible Class Teacher at Highland and as an elder. He was the same man in all three roles. He lives what he teaches and as he lives he teaches. My David had the blessing of being his GA while at ACU and it was a transformational experience for him. We count David and Jeanne as heart friends who we admire and respect deeply!
    I love too that David is such a learner - a lover of books and information but for the sole purpose of transformation and not knowledge gain.

    By Blogger Arlene Kasselman, at 2/06/2006 02:52:00 PM  

  • I too, am one of the many for whom God used Dr. Wray's SF class to reveal transformation on many levels. The seeds planted there are moving many years of hardened soil and rock. I am currently being challenged once again by being in Dr. Wray's Church Administration class BIBM 694.

    Tremendous pastoral blessing.

    By Blogger Donald Philip Simpson, at 2/06/2006 03:05:00 PM  

  • Thanks for sharing this.
    Would love to hear the list of all the suggested books.

    By Blogger wondering04, at 2/06/2006 04:28:00 PM  

  • Thanks Mike,
    It is great to hear the simple, yet convicting words of God spoken through his servant David. I guess I am putting another tally mark on the board of one who will never forget my experience in David's class.
    All of you who are around him, drink it up for me! Thanks David and Mike for being a living witness of Jesus in this world.

    By Blogger Logan and Katie Brown, at 2/06/2006 05:31:00 PM  

  • Wow, I loved this post. All kinds of ideas are running through me about moving from being mostly informational to becoming transformational. This has really struck home for me. Thanks for this interview. More!

    By Blogger Rcutsinger, at 2/07/2006 06:00:00 AM  

  • David Wray doesn't know me from Adam, even though we've met. When I've heard him speak, the wisdom he exudes is so impressive. A real man of God.

    By Blogger Tim Perkins, at 2/07/2006 09:05:00 AM  

  • just one more person echoing the sentiments of what an amazing experience it was to be a part of David's Spiritual Formation class...he is such a wise man with such a heart to serve others...

    although i did somehow always manage to sit at a table too close to the front and definitely felt SUPER short as he stood over me talking!

    i will never forget walking into his class minutes after i had watched a plane crash into the world trade center on September 11, 2001 in the ACU campus center...and i was so thankful that it was his voice of wisdom and his prayerful heart that i heard immediately after witnessing that...

    By Blogger tine, at 2/07/2006 02:24:00 PM  

  • I've loved David Wray for more than 23 years...since I used to spend time on weekends at his home eating strawberry pie that his daughter and my dear friend, Wendy, would make for me. There is no truer elder, no deeper thinker, no encourager more sincere. Thanks for sharing a bit of him with us today!

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 2/07/2006 06:42:00 PM  

  • David Wray is a wonderful man and has much wisdom to offer. Thanks so much for allowing us to hear from him, Mike.

    By Blogger Matt Tapie, at 2/08/2006 09:50:00 AM  

  • I really, really appreciated this post, Mike. I know you don't like it when we forward your posts to the elders at our churches, but I did it anyway. :-)

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 2/08/2006 03:55:00 PM  

  • Good stuff. So many of even our good churches i'm afraid, are spending much of our resources on stuff (buildings, etc) that is keeping us from what would be better- getting out there where the people are, and better supporting other ministries/fellowships that do this.

    Anyhow, thanks much.

    By Blogger Ted Gossard, at 2/09/2006 01:34:00 AM  

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