Spiritual Direction: Is it Legit?

 What’s Up with Spiritual Direction?
There are some in Evangelical circles who hold the practice of spiritual direction at arms length. “Is it even biblical?”, one might ask. Is this just another buzz topic from the prevalent “spiritual formation” movement? Or is this a viable skill set for shepherds?

I have been through a biblically grounded, Trinitarian, Christ-centered training in spiritual direction. I also receive spiritual direction, as much as I can, on a monthly basis. I find the input into my life invaluable. The unique contribution of spiritual direction has helped me to grow in my discernment and spiritual care of others. I am a better shepherd because of the direction I receive and the skill set at my disposal.

Below are helpful resources on the topic. Even if you are skeptically curious, I cannot encourage you enough to read Gordon T. Smith’s book. If you want more, then take a look at Morris Dirks’ offering.  Lest one think this is only a “catholic” practice, both brothers are protestant.  Plus, I list below two trainings you could look into.

Spiritual Direction that guides people toward union with Christ in reliance on the Spirit and the Word is a worthy skill for the accomplished shepherd. I argue it is a needed spiritual practice for anyone in ministry.

Spiritual Direction Resources
Like anything else out there, one must vet such recommendations. I seek to bring a Trinitarian, Christocentric, Biblical set of resources to such recommendations. But each of us must read critically and discern well.

Spiritual Direction by Gordon T. Smith

Smith SD
I have read numerous books on the subject, this is the most solid I have read to date. I heartily recommend it. Smith is centered theologically and biblically in his writings (Called To Be Saints is another of his titles I strongly encourage to be devoured). He is Canadian, has a CMA background and previously lived and served in the Philippines for many years. This book’s text is a mere 90 pages, yet it is dense. Smith says a great deal with an economy of words. Even if you have no interest in spiritual direction, this is a great, concise read on central elements of spiritual growth.

Forming the Leader’s Soul: An Invitation to Spiritual Formation By Morris Dirks

Dirks is based in the Seattle area and has a ministry aimed at ministry leaders. This book argues for the necessity of everyone in ministry needing spiritual input on a formal basis. Chapter 2 excellently details the systemic ill-health amidst pastors and other workers in the evangelical movement. His paradigm for spiritual direction is Ignatian, which many argue was a key reformation figure from within the catholic church in Southern Europe while Luther and others reformed further north. Though not as theologically steeped as Smith, it offers great practical helps.

Spiritual Direction Trainings
Sustainable Faith (sustainablefaith.org)

FullSizeRenderThis training is offered in many U. S. cites and has recently branched into a few European cities. Following a cohort model, this is a small group, highly relational model of training. I have been through this program and both enjoyed it and grew from it. I have also had the privilege of co-leading/training a cohort. It has shaped the way I engage people in my shepherding work.

Spiritual Growth Ministries Aortearoa New Zealand  (sgm.org.nz)
I do not have any personal experience with this training. One of our staff highly recommends it. Here are her comments to me: “It’s a two-year course in classical spiritual direction with a lot of practical application and internship. That’s one of the reasons I decided to go with it. Lots and lots of supervised practice. There is one five-day required workshop in NZ, but the rest is done via internet.”

I’d love to hear of other excellent trainings and resources you migth know of.

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4 Responses to Spiritual Direction: Is it Legit?

  1. Dave Lewis says:

    I do not have personal experience with their training program, but I have enjoyed and benefitted from the monthly Silencio offerings from this group: http://www.leadershiptransformations.org/selah.htm


    • Scott S says:

      Thanks Dave. Yes, this is a good resource from a solid organization providing guidance and care for ministry leaders. One can subscribe to receive this regular resource via email. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.



  2. I just came across your site, and am delighted with this resource. We live in Turkey where we offer contemplative retreat space for those who desire a season of shelter for prayer, rest, listening, writing and other pursuits. We call it Spa for the Soul. As part of our preparation for this season of our lives, I did a diploma in spiritual direction with a Jesuit institute in Dublin (we were living in the Middle East at the time) which welcomed this evangelical woman with grace and willingness to engage. Please do not undervalue Catholic or Anglican resources, for they have much more depth in this practice. I do think SD is a worthy discipline, and particularly in this age of shallow, transient connections and endemic over-busyness. For so few give time to really listen and pray, to invite accountability, and to remain alongside through whatever may come. Holy Listening by Margaret Guenther is a wonderful introduction to the discipline. Regent College in Vancouver BC occasionally makes a summer course offering called Contemplative Listening. Taught by Susan Phillips, that course is an amazing introduction to the discipline of really listening to another in the presence of the Lord in order to stand alongside him/her in that “further up, further in” pursuit of Jesus.

    I have also, however, especially in the US, run across a good deal of “spiritual direction” offerings that are more about “spirituality” than about biblical prayer and hard following after the Lord. There is reason for wariness, I think.

    For myself, I would love recommendations of spiritual directors who are biblically grounded and also familiar with the global expat world.

    Thanks for your efforts with this blog!


    • Scott S says:


      Thank you for your comments on spiritual direction resources. Agreed, our catholic brothers and sisters have a wealth of experience we can gain from. I offered two protestant authors as resources for anyone who is new to the practice or maybe skeptical of catholic resources.

      OK, I am going to step out here a bit. Jeri, this next paragraph is not addressed to you, but the wider audience (I will write more on this when my thinking is clear enough on the subject).

      The spiritual direction training I received utilized catholic books for 90%+ of the curriculum. They were of immense help. Yet, as I read a wide range of authors in the “spiritual formation” field,catholic and protestant, I am quite surprised at how little true Trinitarian, Christ-centric theology is utilized. An ever so slight nudge of the rudder and one is quickly into the sea of an applied theology that smacks of moralism or purgation. God has corrected my course on this over the years. My one encouragement for anyone reading any resource in this field, protestant or catholic, is to be mindful of purgation theology.

      Jeri, thank you for living and working in such a difficult country. My wife and I have been to your country numerous times and are eager to see ways and means of facilitating renewal and effectiveness. No doubt, your ministry is doing wondrous work for many. Maybe one day we can visit.

      And thanks for commenting. It is so much fun to hear from people out there!




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