What Is Spiritual Formation?


For everyone on the planet there exists a spiritual life. Every person living and breathing and walking around on this third rock from the sun called earth has a spirit, whether they believe it or not. Just like everyone has a spirit, everyone experiences some sort of spiritual formation. Some take the road of unbelief thinking that their spiritual formation doesn’t exist and some follow religions based on different man made gods and goddesses. In doing so they are in fact forming the depths of their spirit to be open to some of the darkest forces present in this realm. Then there are some who open their spirits up to the light; the purpose of this paper is to answer the question “What Is Spiritual Formation?” from the perspective of those who have opened themselves to Truth and Light, the Christ-follower.

What Is Spiritual Formation?

Spiritual formation is the process by which a Christ-follower is molded and shaped into become more like Christ. This process can manifest itself through the forms of relationships, events, spiritual disciplines, or personal reflections. Spiritual formation is ultimately spawned directly from the hand of God. He brings into the life of the believer various encounters in order to shape them to be more like His son Jesus.

The prophet Isaiah likens this process to the relationship of a potter and his clay. “But LORD, you are our father. We are like clay, and you are the potter, your hands made us all.”[1] God is our Potter he is the ultimate source of spiritual formation.

God can choose to mold us and shape us through the people He brings into our lives. He chose to do this in the life of King David in the form of correction. In 2 Samuel 12 we see how God sends the prophet Nathan to David in order to call him out on his sins with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. David is broken over the encounter. One can see his remorse in Psalm 51 where David writes a prayer of forgiveness.

Author John Westerhoff likens spiritual formation to a pilgrimage that one might find himself on; with various tasks and obstacles to overcome and take part in.[2] One might be reminded of the fictional work Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan in which the main character Pilgrim goes out on a quest that through trial and tribulation draws him closer to God.

Spiritual formation may not always be the easiest process for the believer. God can use an event such as a mission trip or the death of a family member to draw one closer to Him. God’s heart is to shape and form His followers for the better, this may mean getting rid of some things. Very much like a gardener prunes back his plants cutting away the dead and old to allow for new growth so God cuts and prunes the heart of the believer to allow for new growth in the Spirit.

Biblical Instruction

The Bible is clear that spiritual formation is necessary in the life of the believer especially in the form of discipleship. In Jesus ministry he was all about people. He gathered 12 followers around him and from them took 3 to really pour deeply into. In his final instructions to his disciples Jesus commands them to go into all of the world making disciples and baptizing them in his name. It’s obvious from Jesus example and commands that discipleship and mentoring are important to this whole spiritual formation process.

Personal Experience & Insight

In Isaiah 64:8, as mentioned earlier, we are described as clay in the hands of God. He is our potter constantly molding us and shaping us to be more like the image of Jesus. While God is the Potter in my life and has shaped and molded me and continues to do so he has brought many men and women in and out of my life to aid in my spiritual formation.

The first of these people helped to physically bring me into this world. My mother is the largest and most significant influence on my spiritual formation of all others. From before I was born she prayed over me in her womb and after I was born taught me much of what I know even to this day about prayer and tithing. She led me to Christ at the age of six. If I were to pick up the phone and ask her I know she has prayed for me even today. She helped to make Christ come alive in my life.

The second major influence on my spiritual formation is my good friend and whom I consider my pastor, Darien Gabriel. He was my youth pastor from the time I was in 7th Grade all through High School. It was under his leadership and direction that I took leadership roles in worship. He taught me what it means to be a worshipper off stage. There was one night where he actually washed my feet along with some others in our youth group as a sign of servant leadership. I had the privilege to do a youth internship under his leadership during my college years and to this day he is my close friend and mentor. He was never afraid to let me fail in order to learn. He pushed me hard to live in the image of Christ, to walk in the dust of my Rabbi if you will. I am ever grateful for his help forming me spiritually in the areas of leadership.

Though I don't know where he is now or what he's up to, a youth intern named DJ Miles shaped much of what I know about corporate worship leading during my junior and senior year of high school.

The pastor I currently serve with in the PowerSource, Middle School ministry I'm apart of, Jeremy Rader, has taught me more about living a life of integrity by his example than most men I've known. Integrity flows through every part of his life.

My wife has taught me much about how to be less selfish. I grew up practically as an only child since my brother and sister were both out of the house and grown by the time I was around I was handed a bit of a silver spoon. She grew up with a brother and sister in house and is far more generous with her things than I am.

Finally the most recent and one of the largest spiritual influences on my life has been my current mentor Matt Wilkins. He invests so much in my life specifically to shape and mold me to be more like Christ. He challenges me with tough topics and exemplifies the type of man I want to be as interact with my wife and family.

There are many more men and women beyond these listed here that have helped in my spiritual formation processes. These are just a few that have really made specific deposits into me. They are such a blessing and I'm thankful that the Potter chose to bring each of them into my life for those times.


Spiritual formation in the life of the believer is necessary. It’s a continual process of growth that shows evidence of life. Though it may not be the easiest to go through the end result draws the believer closer to the heart of God and that is a good place to be.

[1] The Holy Bible: New Century Version. (Belgium: Thomas Nelson INC., 2005,) 470

[2] Westerhoff, John. Spiritual Life: The Foundation For Preaching And Teaching. (Louisville: Westminister John Knox Press, 1994), 10-11.

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