At the end of the most epic series I’ve ever preached…a Spiritual Formation reading list

Okay, so I actually haven’t preached that many series’ in my life, so perhaps the standard of measurement is off … but this series went on for A WHILE!  9 weeks.  I really have no idea whether anyone at Bloom enjoyed listening to them, but I sure enjoyed preaching them.

Here’s what we covered in 9 weeks:

  • Week 1 – Introduction; Harnessing the Latent Life of God
  • Week 2 – We Belong to Someone (spiritual practices are not first therapeutic; they’re about our presenting a “self” to God that’s worth all He is–we actually preached about Judgment in this message)
  • Week 3 – The Practice of Solitude; Embracing Aloneness
  • Week 4 – The Practice (and tension) of Prayer
  • Week 5 – Why Self-Denial?  (This was the Sunday before Lent began)
  • Week 6 – The Dark Night of the Soul (When God feels absent)
  • Week 7 – The Practice of Community/Confession
  • Week 8 – The Practice of Servanthood
  • Week 9 (tonight) – What the Heck is the Bible (and what should we do with it?)

(You can listen to any of these messages at our website under “services” and “talks”)

Looking at that list, I actually lament that we can’t spend more time … there’s just SO much more to talk about … Disciplines like Sabbath, Simplicity, Generosity, Secrecy, Celebration, etc.  But I suppose … we’re in church-world, and there’s a lot of preaching in front of me : )  Don’t “blow your wad early” as they say.

Nevertheless, wanting to stimulate our folks at Bloom to dig into the issue more, I did decide to put together a short reading list of some of the works in the area of spiritual formation/spiritual practices that have been MOST influential to me.  Here she be:

  • Richard Foster, “The Celebration of Discipline.”  This THE classic modern work on both the WHAT and the WHY of spiritual disciplines/practices.  If you only read one book on spiritual disciplines, make this the one.
  • Dallas Willard, “The Divine Conspiracy.”  Challenges us to view our lives through the lens of God’s present kingdom and to develop a “Curriculum for Christlikeness” based in spiritual practices that take Jesus seriously as a TEACHER.  Incredible book.
  • Dallas Willard, “The Spirit of the Disciplines.”  This is Willard’s earlier work.  Attempts to diagnose why the spirituality of most Christians in the West is sick and how we can recover a robust spirituality through spiritual practices.
  • James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God.”  Smith is a disciple of Foster and Willard and it shows.  Great book with some AMAZING suggestions for practicing a God-centered life through things like Sabbath, getting enough sleep, etc.
  • Brother Lawrence, “The Practice of the Presence of God.”  Lawrence was a 17th century monk known for his peculiarly intimate relationship with God.  This is a tiny book but a MUST READ account of how this humble monk “practiced” communion with God in the humdrum of daily life.
  • Henri J. M. Nouwen, “In the Name of Jesus.”  Nouwen was a Catholic priest who did perhaps his most influential work while serving as an on-site chaplain for a community of disabled people.  This is also a tiny book but a MUST READ on the disciplines of prayer, community, and Scripture reading.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Life Together.”  Bonhoeffer, a theologian, pastor, and major leader in the resistance movement against the Nazis, composed this book during his most vital experience of community: leading an illegal, underground seminary.  It is a fascinating account of how Christians can “do” spirituality in community.  Buy it.

I admit.  I’m not as well versed in the classics as I ought to be, and this list is more representative than exhaustive.  Would you add others?  Which ones?

Anyhow, I hope you decide to pick up one or two of these books to learn from some of the great devotional masters on what it takes to make the “journey” into God, the “far shore” that we always pursue but never (in this life at least) reach.  Learning about spiritual disciplines has been one of the great joys of my life and surely the reason that my faith has not spun wildly out of control on more than one occasion.  Being “rooted” in Jesus is the best place to live.

He is endless.  Enjoy Him.


3 thoughts on “At the end of the most epic series I’ve ever preached…a Spiritual Formation reading list

  1. Great series, Andrew. I wish I could have heard it. (Do ya’ll do podcasts?) I just finished up a “Spiritual and Personal Formation” class, and it was really incredible. We read Foster’s newest book (cowritten with Gayle Beebe, “Longing for God,” and I LOVED IT! (It’s a nice survey of all of the best formation thinkers, most of which I was unaware). Plus, we read Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” and then had to reflect upon our own experiences of being the younger son, elder son, and Father.

    I also loved Edwin Friedman’s “A Failure of Nerve.” Have you ever read that book? He applies family social theory to leading the “family of congregations (my favorite leadership book!)

  2. Becky, we DO do podcasts. Go to the website under “services” and “talks” and you can download the audio files right from the site.

    Your class sounds amazing. I need to grab all of the books you recommend. Thanks for chiming in!

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