Monday, October 6, 2008

Spiritual Formation

By John Jefferson Davis
Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics

At a recent coffee hour in the seminary cafeteria our new president, Dr. Dennis Hollinger, gave an update on current happenings at the school and responded to student questions. The final question came from a student who asked, “Can you share with us some of your own experiences as a seminary student? What were some of the ‘highlights’ and ‘lowlights’?”

Dr. Hollinger paused for a moment, and then said the big highlights were the mind-stretching new studies and insights from scripture, theology, apologetics and other theological topics, and secondly, the friendships that he formed in seminary that have continued down to the present day. In terms of ‘lowlights’ or less than satisfactory aspects of his seminary days, he pointed to spiritual formation as an area that was not what it could or should have been: the “head” far outstripped the “heart” as a focus of growth during those years (though, he noted, the school in question has since tried to address this area in its curriculum).

The president’s remarks caught my attention, because I know that as a point of faculty discussion and concern spiritual formation is a topic that we need to address – and hear from you about. As a current student, or alum, are there observations that you can share with us as faculty that can help us to do a better job of training future leaders in the church in this area? How did you or do you find that classroom teaching, the chapel program, campus Bible studies, the Pierce Center, local churches, and other campus activities contributed to your spiritual growth? We need to hear from you and learn from your experience at Gordon-Conwell.

I am currently trying to integrate more fully into my theology courses practical applications that relate to spirituality, prayer, meditation, and worship. My current book manuscript, The Ontology of Worship, addresses the connection between worship as the high priority of the church and the spiritual formation of its members.

I would also like to make available to you, if you are interested in these matters, two annotated bibliographies that may help your own study and reading in the areas of spiritual formation and Christian spirituality: “Devotional Classics,” my list of all-time favorites in the history of Christian devotional writings; and “Testing the Spirits,” a resource for spiritual discernment and testing the phenomena of revival movements, based on principles gleaned from the early church, the Great Awakening, and the history of spiritual direction. You can access these bibliographies by clicking on the "Download File" link below.

May God continue to bless you as you seek to grow in Christ.

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