Saturday, May 19, 2007

Comparing Spiritual Formation and Discipleship

Dallas Willard defines “spiritual formation in Christ is the process whereby the innermost being of the individual (the heart, will or spirit) takes on the quality or character of Jesus himself.” (p.53 italics author’s) and “discipleship is a life of learning from Jesus Christ how to live in the Kingdom of God now, as he himself did.” (p. 62). Here, Willard, distinguishes clearly that while there are certain overlap between discipleship and spiritual formation; spiritual formation is a more holistic term (process of character formation) while discipleship (how to live in the Kingdom of God) forms a subset of it.

Willard gave two reasons why spiritual formation is becoming a popular term. First, discipleship
is a term that had pretty well lost its meaning because of the way it has been misused. Discipleship on the theological right has come to mean preparation for soul winning, under the direction of parachurch, efforts that had discipleship farmed out to them because the local church really wasn’t doing it. On the left, discipleship had come to mean some form of social activity or social service, from serving soup lines to political protest to …whatever. The term “discipleship” has currently been ruined so far as any solid psychological and biblical content is concerned. (p. 53)

The other reason Willard gave for the increasing use of the term spiritual formation is that denominational and traditional differences are not to taken as seriously now as it was in the past and a new term is needed to describe our commitment to God. Spiritual formation is considered a suitable acceptable term.

Willard, D. (2006). The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship. New York, HarperCollins Publisher.

Labels: , ,