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.