Our working definition of spiritual formation is:
Spiritual formation is the ongoing process of the Holy Spirit drawing us deeper into the love and life of the Father and Son; which shapes us into Jesus’ image of love for the Father and for the world.
From that definition, we added that the shepherds first, foremost and primary role is to shepherd others to this place of communion with Jesus:
“Shepherds are willfully complicit with the Holy Spirit’s concern of drawing all into communion with the Father and Son.”
What we are advocating for is a trajectory of growth in communion with the Father and the Son by the Spirit. Yes, the path is circuitous. It is not linear. This is the messy stuff of relationship. Yet, in the Spirit, we grow in our abiding in Jesus. Shepherds seek to facilitate that relational growth.
Because we are bent on trying to make life work on own best efforts, we are reminded that we do not throw people back on themselves with self-determining efforts. God is the one who grows us.
Over many years of shepherding workers around the world, I have made an observation. This is general in nature, but it will serve our purpose.
We all have a spirituality that “works” in our own culture. We know how to navigate culture; we have resources and a community around us; we experience less (or at least
different) stressors; and we can become familiar with the enemy’s ploys in that context.
When we move into a new country, all bets are off. Suddenly we are faced with a deluge of stressors; we are confronted with spiritual oppression that overwhelms; we may have little to no faith community.
We now have a spirituality crisis as the spiritual practices we observed in our home culture can be quickly outstripped by the demands of life and ministry in a new context.
Our spirituality is no longer adequate for the life-ministry context we find ourselves in.
What is the Spirit up to? Well, the same as always. He is inviting us in deeper still.
In human terms, our input must far exceed our output. But many workers do not know what to do and have not been shepherded into deeper waters of faith.
Spiritual Coaching and Mentoring
Here is where shepherds can become ground-level practical in their shepherding.
When faced with workers who are distressed and showing symptoms of emotional thinness and spiritual malnourishment, shepherds can offer practical ways forward.
The simple fact is that God is inviting each of us to spend far more time with him than we likely ever have before. And this on a daily basis.
We require lengthier time in the Word, reflecting, pondering, chewing all in a spirit of openness to God – not just for more knowledge or to prep for our next teaching session.
God will invite us to lengthier times of sitting with him in prayer – in whatever form that takes.
Sabbath and a day of solitude and prayer a month are no longer optional.
Necessary too are spiritual directors, mentors and pastors of our souls.
Creativity can Breath Life
Particularly in our prayer practices we can invite creativity. There are a multitude of well-known practices: intercession, silence, meditation, contemplation, Examen, on and on. Whatever faith stream you come out of (e.g. reformed, liturgical, charismatic, contemplative, etc.), there is a rich heritage of prayer practices.
What’s more, many will find great enrichment in creative expression – walking and praying as you go; painting; praying with a friend; writing poetry; playing an instrument. The fact, though, is that few of us have been given permission in these area. Nor do we know how.
Take Examen for example. This can be a profoundly insight reflection practice. But how does one go about it? What is the purpose? How do I learn to discern what the Spirit wants me to see? Who can help me gain some perspective?
This is the practical encouragement and mentoring spiritual shepherds can provide as we shepherd others deeper into communion with God.
There is a great need for newer workers to be mentored into deeper ways of responsive abiding in Jesus. What a gift we can offer by providing such guidance.
As always, I would love to hear from your experience in this area – how others have assisted you or what you have found beneficial in your care of others. Thanks!
Would you mind doing me a favor and share this site with 3-5 friends or colleagues if you think it worth their time? Thanks!