Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming like Christ

Book Review
  • Approximate Time Commitment: 10 minutes

FOUNDATIONS OF SPIRITUAL FORMATION: A Community Approach to Becoming like Christ edited by Paul Pettit is about “spiritual formation,” which is defined in the book as “the ongoing process of the triune God transforming the believer’s life and character toward the life and character of Jesus Christ – accomplished by the ministry of the Spirit in the context of biblical community.” This review was written by Hank Griffith of South Suburban Evangelical Free Church in Apple Valley, Minnesota. This book is good for any believer in their walk with God.

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Resource Description

Full Review:

Ever since around 2006 when I became actively involved in discipling men, the subject of spiritual formation has been one of my number one interests. In the book I’m reviewing, “Spiritual formation” is defined as “the ongoing process of the triune God transforming the believer’s life and character toward the life and character of Jesus Christ – accomplished by the ministry of the Spirit in the context of biblical community.”

How do we grow in Christ-likeness? What are the key factors in our sanctification? These are questions explored by FOUNDATIONS OF SPIRITUAL FORMATION: A Community Approach to Becoming like Christ, edited by Paul Pettit, who teaches in the departments of Spiritual Formation and Leadership and Pastoral Ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary. In my opinion, this is one of the best books I’ve read on the subject of spiritual formation. Each chapter is written by a different person so the quality is not uniform throughout; just the same, the whole book contains many great insights on spiritual formation.

One of the overall themes in the book, occurring over and over again, is that to grow in Christ we need to be a vital member of a community of believers. Frankly, this is one of the problems I discovered when I was discipling men one-on-one. Not all of the men were as consistently involved in a church as they should have been, so when our discipling sessions ended after a year or two, the momentum of their spiritual growth and active Christian service began to decline in some of them.

Table of Contents

Foreword – Howard Hendriks

Introduction – Paul Pettit

Part 1: Laying the Foundations of Spiritual Formation

Chapter 1: Introducing Spiritual Formation – Jonathan Morrow

Chapter 2: Worship and Spiritual Formation – Richard Averbeck

Chapter 3: Old Testament Community and Spiritual Formation – Gordon Johnston

Chapter 4: New Testament Community and Spiritual Formation – Darrell L. Bock

Part 2: Practicing the Elements of Spiritual Formation

Chapter 5: The Soul and Spiritual Formation – Klaus Issler

Chapter 6: Character and Spiritual Formation – Brad Kisling

Chapter 7: Love and Spiritual Formations – Bill Miller

Chapter 8: Leadership and Spiritual Formations – Andrew Seidel

Chapter 9: Calling and Spiritual Formation – George Hillman

Chapter 10: Life Story and Spiritual Formation – Gail Seidel

Chapter 11: Preaching and Spiritual Formation – Harry Shields

Conclusion – Paul Pettit

Some of my favorite quotes from FOUNDATIONS OF SPIRITUAL FORMATION: A Community Approach to Becoming like Christ:

  • “Every student headed for vocational Christian service needs a small group experience as part of their ministry training.”
  • “Character failure is seldom a blowout; it is usually the result of a long, slow leak. We all need someone who loves us but is not impressed with us, someone who will ask us the hard questions.”
  • “Preaching is one means of bringing to the surface the truths of the Word of God that people need to apply in their lives. But watch what happens when you get a group of disciples around you.”
  • “I undertook a study of men who failed in ministry for moral reasons. … When I asked them to tell me about their accountability group, every one of the participants except one responded, ‘I have no accountability group and never have had one.’”
  • “We can state the following two principles with conviction. First, spiritual foundation is the holistic work of God in a believer’s life whereby systematic change renders the individual continually closer to the image and actions of Jesus Christ. And second, the change or transformation that occurs in the believer’s life happens best in the context of authentic community and is oriented as service toward God and others.”
  • “Make no mistake maturing as a Christian is a process. It is not a second step, a higher plane, a sacred blessing, or a lightning bolt moment when God invades and brings the Christian to a perfected place.”
  • “Problems arise when an overemphasis is placed on the individual believer apart from his or her Christian community.”
  • “The process of spiritual formation (the believer becoming more like Christ) is a mysterious outworking of both God’s initiative and involvement over time and a concerted response or action plan by the individual believer.”
  • In contrast to postmodernism “evangelicals must affirm that objective truth can be discovered, known, and communicated because all truth is ultimately grounded in the person of God and the propositional revelation of that God.”
  • “In Cornelius Plantinga’s words, ‘Shalom (i.e. peace or wholeness) is God’s design for creation and redemption; sin is blamable human vandalism of these great realities and therefore an affront to their architect and builder.’”
  • “The consequences of the fall are extensive and affect the total person (i.e. total depravity.) What has been deformed by the ugliness of sin (the whole person) must now be reformed according to the ideal image of perfect humanity found in Jesus Christ.”
  • “Spiritual formation is divinely enabled by God through three essential resources: God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and God’s people (the church).”
  • Gordon Fee expresses it this way: “God is not just saving individuals and preparing them for heaven; rather he is creating a people among whom he can live and who in their life together will reproduce God’s life and character.”
  • “We live in the already and await the not yet. The day is still future when spiritual formation will cease.”
  • “Worship of the triune God is the most spiritually formative practice available to us as Christians.”
  • “More than anything else, the main goal of the Christian life is to become better worshippers.”
  • “The main issues are not styles of music, whether there is liturgy, or anything else. The real issue in individual or corporate worship is the human spirit overwhelmed by the work of the Holy Spirit enabling a vision of God that is true and transformational.”
  • “Community is an essential element of spiritual formation. Indeed, the degree of our success or failure on the pathway of Christian discipleship depends on the depth of community that we cultivate with one another.”
  • “An essential component of this relationship with God is what we bring to it. We must have an open and seeking heart; a heart that seeks him and the communal fellowship he desires for us.”
  • “As we grow in our emotional capacities, not only can we be more honest with God, but we are also being slowly transformed by the Spirit to experience these essential Christ-like affections in the depth of our soul.”
  • “God disciplines us for our growth and development in godliness. Unfortunately, the process of character transformation is often painful. Nevertheless, spiritual formation and character are inextricably linked.”
  • “The development of our character is our aim, our desire being to mirror the character of God himself as just, merciful, and humble people who lead with others in mind. … Such mature character is necessary to the creation of godly leaders who transform lives, families, communities, societies, and yes even the world.”
  • “Spiritual formation must never be a private experience or an entirely interior experience. It should express itself in an active love for others.”
  • “If spiritual formation does not result in a people who are learning to love well in every season of life, and in every community, then we are engaged in a spiritual formation that is missing the mark.”
  • “A secure sense of identity enables a leader to be a servant leader.”
  • “Some read ‘calling’ and think of professional ministry. But the call of God is so much bigger than that. In the simplest terms, calling is the place in life where God has brought you, and where in your uniqueness you can love God and love others.”
  • “Until our Lord comes for his church, let us be faithful in preaching the kind of sermons that transform people to be more and more like our Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • “This conclusion has set forth the four-part notion that Christian spiritual formation consists of knowing your identity in Christ, so that you can make yourself known to others in a Christian community, so that you can pursue a lifetime of integrity in the context of community, so that you are fully equipped to glorify Christ by serving others in maturity.”



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