Where does spiritual formation really happen?

Jul 9, 2015 by

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Spiritual formation is defined as an intentional Christian practice with the goal to develop a spiritual maturity that leads to Christ-likeness. The term brings to mind Christian spiritual practices like study, contemplation, prayer and Sunday School. But is that really where spiritual formation happens?


I have been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about both how I accomplish spiritual formation in my own life and how I assist others to move closer to God. Most spiritual formation occurs not in formal study settings but in informal, often spontaneous encounters and discussions. It is just as likely to occur walking around Costco with our intern or picking raspberries with friends.

Walking around Costco may not sound like the ideal place for growing ones’ spiritual life, but it is often in situations like this that the rubber hits the road. As we walked, we talked about the struggles we have to live simply in a culture that takes such abundance for granted. We discussed fairly traded products and how we can help the poor and the marginalized through our choices. We also talked about buying organic and the ways in which we can support local family farms by investing in community-supported agriculture. This may not sound like a very spiritual discussion but we covered the spectrum, from social justice and the minimum wage to care for the environment.

I am not a fan of teaching “spiritual formation” by sitting people down in chairs and yakking at them. Unless we give people an opportunity to practice what they are learning and show them that we are also practicing what we preach than I don’t think anyone is learning anything about what it means to be a Christian. Personally I would like to scrub Sunday school all together. Hands-on spiritual learning is far more effective.

Christine Sine is executive director of Mustard Seed Associates, a small organization founded by her and her husband, Tom Sine, to assist churches and Christian organizations to engage the challenges of the 21st century. She writes at God Space, where this post originally appeared.

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