Definitions & Spirituality

Definitions and Spirituality

Spiritual Formation:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8)

The above biblical verse encapsulates the totality of Spiritual Formation. Spiritual Formation is an intentional Christian practice to develop spiritual maturity that leads to Christlikeness. One definition of spiritual Formation found in a World Council of Churches publication states “the intentional processes by which the marks of an authentic Christian spirituality are formed and integrated.”

We need some very concrete spiritual disciplines to help us entirely appropriate and internalize our joys and sorrows and find in them our unique way to spiritual freedom[1]. Spiritual Formation, I believe, is not about steps or stages on the way to perfection; it’s about the movements from the mind to the heart through Prayer in its many forms that reunite us with God, each other, and our most authentic selves[2].

The disciplines focus our eyes on the road we are traveling and help us to move forward, step-by-step, to our goal. We will encounter significant obstacles and splendid views, long, dry deserts, and freshwater lakes surrounded by shadow-rich trees. We will have to fight against those who try to attack and rob us. We also will make terrific friends. We will often wonder if we ever make it, but one day we will see coming to us the One who has been waiting for us from all eternity to welcome us home[3].

Working Definition of Spiritual Formation:

Spiritual Formation is the intentional transformation of the inner person to the character of Christ.


The term “formation” is variously defined in different contexts. The Roman Catholic tradition has a sacramental conception of ministry as the priesthood, and Formation takes place by providing programs and resources organized around clear institutional goals. The Roman Catholic seminaries have generally been more interested in spiritual Formation than their Protestant counterparts.

A good outline of the history can be found in John O’Malley’s article Spiritual Formation for Ministry; Some Roman Catholic Traditions – their Past and Present and Optatan Totius of Vatican II is exciting reading. The apostolic exhortation of Pastores Dabo Vobis[4] resulted from a bishop’s synod in 1990, following the period post-Vatican II, which was so disastrous for priestly vocations, at least in the west. Chapter five mainly founds the training of a priest in the Gospel, the life of Christ, and communion and fellowship with Him. Interestingly, it emphasizes personal human Formation as a crucial parallel process to spiritual Formation (a link Lindbeck argued against in 1987).

The exhortation affirms that the seminary’s mission embraces four critical dimensions of Formation: humanintellectualspiritual, and pastoral. The Fourth edition of the program of priestly Formation (1993) highlighted the need for a new emphasis on priestly identity with the insistence that the priesthood is unique in the Church and, therefore, ought to have its specialized program of learning and Formation.

Forms of Spirituality:

Ten Basic Assumptions to Consider for Spiritual Formation Program:

  1. You cannot just tell people to behave themselves; they have to be formed to behave themselves.
  2. Human beings are formable, i.e., the longing for the transcendence
  3. Formation includes our world and environment.
  4. Formation is about paying attention and listening to one’s life
  5. Conscious cooperation with what God is doing.
  6. God invites us to be changed
  7. Formation is not just theological but also experiential
  8. Getting to know that we are the beloved of God
  9. Formation is a gentle invitation from God. It is not striving to be loved but knowing we are loved
  10. Spiritual Formation involves the whole community of faith.

Twelve Types of Spirituality by Kenneth Boa:

  1. Relational Spirituality: Loving God completely, ourselves correctly, and others compassionately. God is a very complicated and complex Being. Every language man uses for God is ‘Anthropomorphic’ – human language. God is more than we know Him or we call Him. God belongs to a different order because He is Holy, a transcendent God. Another aspect of God is far away yet near. In God, there is no contradiction, but there are things that are ‘Paradoxes’ but no contradiction. The Trinitarian dimension (Nicene Creed & Athanasius Creed) presents what is known as the ‘Relational’ dimension of God. It is a challenge to love a complicated God, but God broke the barrier himself.
  2. Paradigm Spirituality: Cultivating an Eternal versus Temporary Perspective
  3. Disciplined Spirituality: Engaging in the Historical Disciplines. This type of Spirituality can be developed in five ways:
  • (i)                         Solitude, Silence, and Prayer
  • (ii)                      Journaling, Study, and Meditation
  • (iii)                   Fasting, Chastity, and Secrecy
  • (iv)                    Confession, Submission, and Guidance
  • (v)                       Simplicity Stewardship and Sacrifice; and Witness
  1. Exchanged life Spirituality: Grasping our True Identity in Christ. Based on believers’ new identity in Christ, who does God says I am? Our old and new Nature; Love & Acceptance; Significance & Identity; Competence & Fulfillment; and Our Response to God’s Plan: Knowing, Reckoning, Yielding, New nature + new power = transformation.
  2. Motivated Spirituality: A set of Biblical Incentives. One, Discern the motivational gift God has assigned to you.
  3. Devotional Spirituality: Falling in love with God: God’s World, God’s Word, God’s Work, and God’s Ways
  4. Holistic Spirituality: Every Component of life under the Lordship of Christ. The foundation for Holistic Spirituality defines ‘Spirituality’ as ‘the natural human connection with the wonder and energy of nature, cosmos, and all existence; and the instinct to explore and understand its meaning.” Celebrating diversity and connection and maintaining Emotional wellness and Personal development.
  5. Process Spirituality: Process versus Product, being versus Doing. This Spirituality concerns faithfulness during the ongoing journey rather than living from one product to the next. It also focuses on what it means to abide in Christ and to practice his presence.
  6. Spirit-Filled Spirituality: Walking in the Power of the Spirit. This kind of Spirituality seeks infinite Light and eternal Truth.
  7. Warfare Spirituality: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil. That includes tearing down the strongholds of the devil. The difference between deliverance and spiritual warfare is that deliverance deals with demonic bondages and getting a person set free. In contrast, spiritual warfare is resisting, overcoming, and defeating the enemy’s lies (in the form of deception, temptations, and accusations) that he sends our way.
  8. Nurturing Spirituality: A lifestyle of Evangelism and Discipleship. Christ lived out through the Church and each of us as believers. Total surrender to Christ. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and the Omega of our spiritual nourishment.
  1. Corporate Spirituality: Encouragement, Accountability, and Worship. The past decades have seen significant growth in what is called ‘workplace spirituality,’ Spirituality, and Corporate Social Responsibility; Spirituality is a firm basis for Corporate Social responsibility.


  • [1] Henri J. M. Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup? (Notre Dame Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1996), 93
  • [2] Henri J. M. Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit
  • [3) Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup? 100-101
  • (4) Pastores Dabo Vobis, Apostolic exhortations of his holiness John Paul II on the Formation of priests, (London: Catholic Truth Society, 1992)

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