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
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)
This 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.