This is part 1 of 6 in our Spiritual Formation for Pastors series.

Spiritual formation is simply the ongoing process of growing and maturing as a Christian. This is described in the advice of the apostle Paul to Timothy.

1 Timothy 4:7 Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly.

1 Timothy 4:16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.

Every Christian needs to develop godly discipline and keep watch on his or her life. But those in ministry must also realize the impact of our spiritual formation on the spiritual life of those under our care.

Maturing as a Christian is a Process

No one has arrived. We’re all on a continuum of growth. This suggests two extremes to avoid. Some will become discouraged because they haven’t come as far as they want to as quickly as they hoped. Yet others will become complacent thinking they have come as far as they need to. No matter how old we are – in age or in the faith – we will always have room to mature in Christ.

Maturing as a Christian is Not an Automatic Part of Ministry

Spiritual formation is a personal, not a professional, issue. Being in a pastoral staff role does not necessarily equate to mature spirituality. Many people are hired to pastoral roles based on giftedness and personality, who have not developed much maturity in Christ. Likewise, having a theological education does not guarantee maturity in Christ. Spiritual formation is not about the kind of knowledge gained in formal education. It’s possible to be a brilliant theologian and be an infant in spiritual life.

Maturing as a Christian has a Personal Aspect

There is a part of our growth in Christ that is between each of us and God directly. This includes elements like worship, Bible study, meditation, and prayer. No one can cultivate this relationship for us. We have to engage God personally.

Maturing as a Christian has an Interpersonal Aspect

Spiritual formation also involves being in community with others. We need input from other Christ-followers to give us insight, encouragement, and exhortation. This creates a problem for many pastors, because pastors are often seen by others in terms of their professional role rather than as persons. People’s expectations will be focused on job performance, not so much on spiritual practices. Pastors struggle with self-disclosure in Christian community. They feel a need to live up to people’s expectations about their godliness and maturity. In this case, they are left without the input from others that we all need.

Without putting energy and intention into their own spiritual formation, pastors (and others with significant ministry responsibilities) can quickly become spiritually empty and tired. We all need to become proactive about spiritual formation, not only for the sake of our ministry life, but for the sake of our relationship with our Savior.

Adapted from Resilient Ministry by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman and Donald C. Guthrie. ©2013 by Bob Burns, Tasha D. Chapman and Donald C. Guthrie. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. As you look back over the past year, what evidences of spiritual growth can you find in your life?
  4. In what ways have you actively pursued spiritual formation? What roles did others play in your growth toward Christian maturity?
  5. Read 1 Timothy 4:7, 16. How does this speak to your growth in Christ at this time in your life?
  6. What are some areas you desire to mature in during this coming year? Explain.
  7. What changes in your habits do you think it would take to pursue this spiritual growth?
  8. Which is healthier in your life: the personal or the interpersonal aspect of spiritual formation? Explain.
  9. How does your spiritual formation as a pastor impact the spiritual life of people you minister to? Give an example.
  10. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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