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I was recently asked to name the books and authors that have most influenced me or helped to form me spiritually, so I’ve decided to post a list of 15 of my favorite spiritual formation books. Over the past ten years or so there has been a renewed interest in the topic of spiritual formation, and much confusion. In general, spiritual formation is the growth and development of a person’s interior or spiritual life through the practice of specific disciplines. This means that there are many perspectives and approaches to spiritual formation depending on one’s belief system, thus the confusion among some Christians. But rest assured, as unfamiliar as some might be with the term, there is no way around the reality that one way or another we are all being spiritually formed. The issue for Christians is whether we are being intentional in our pursuit to become formed into the image of Jesus Christ. So, by way of definition:

Christian spiritual formation is the intentional process of being conformed to the image of Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of others. Though it involves the practice of spiritual disciplines, it’s also a way of life lived in community with others, and grounded in Scripture.

Over the next several weeks I’ll highlight the spiritual formation books that have been most influential in forming me spiritually, or I think may be helpful to those who are new to the subject. Today I’ll start my list with three books from an author who has most informed my concept of the vocation of a Pastor: Eugene Peterson.

In 92′, 93′, and 94′, Peterson wrote three books on the vocational calling of a pastor:

1. Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work 

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2. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction

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3. Under The Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness

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I discovered these books at a time when I had grown extremely discouraged with church work, and increasingly disillusioned with pastoral ministry. I saw one leader after another use ministry as a means to promote themselves and advance their careers. Many of those who were sincere in their wish to serve were overwhelmed with the business of “running” the Church. In these books Peterson Calls us back to the pastoral vocation of prayer, scripture (studying and teaching), and spiritual direction. Peterson helps leaders reclaim their “Vocational Holiness” from those who would “…enlist them into religious careers”.

   

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