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In the book, "Exploring Spiritual Direction", author Alan Jones defines the ministry of Spiritual Direction as, "the art of arts". Spiritual Direction is perhaps one of, if not the most critical need in all of God's Kingdom, and yet the faith community seems to be, for the most part, oblivous to her true condition. The fruit of our ingorance is that we keeping seeking to do old things with new fervor in the hopes that this will bring us the peace, purpose, and stability for which our soul longs.
What is "spiritual direction"? In it's simplest expression it is providing for another individual the gift of spiritual companionship and friendship. Alan Jones goes on to say,
"The art of spiritual direction is rooted in two basic convictions. The first is that our realtionship with God is of primary and fundamental importance. Without a sense of connection with God, all other realtionships are impoverished. The second is that our relationship with God is bound up in our relationship with one another and with the whole created order."
Spiritual Direction is a reclaiming of the fundamental truth that the Christian life, in it's purest form, consist of relationships. Spiritual Direction is God's people reclaiming their God-given responsibility to invest their lives into the lives of others for the Kingdom's sake. Spiritual Direction is restoring the mentoring relationship that Jesus model for us when He walked the earth. Spiritual Direction is giving back to the community of faith and body of Believer's the arena that their gifts and callings were intended to flourish - in relationships with the Saints.
The dilema of our day is that there are so few who are skilled in this art form. We have delegated so much responsibility, for so long, to the pastor to do mass discipleship that the vast majority of the Christian community has forgotten how to mentor and invest into the heart and life of another. We struggle to know how to give this kind of ministry because so few have ever receieved it.
What Is Mentoring/Spiritual Direction?
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear, but when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.
By now you may be asking the question, "What is spiritual direction?" and "What does it have to do with my spiritual life?" Hopefully in the days to come you will begin to catch a glimpse of the art of spiritual direction and more importantly you will see how very vital and critical this nearly forgotten expression of life and ministry is to the Body of Christ. So, lets begin to answer the most basic question, "What is spiritual direction?"
"Spiritual direction takes place when two people agree to give their full attention to what God is doing in one (or both) of their lives and seek to respond in faith. Wether planned or unplanned, three convictions underpin these meetings: (1) God is always doing something: an active grace is shaping this life into mature salvation; (2) responding to God is not sheer guesswork: the Christian community has acquired wisdom through the centuries that provides guidance; (3) each soul is unique: no wisdom can simply be applied without discerning the particulars of this life, this situation."
Jeannette A. Bakke:
"Spiritual direction is a way to pursue God with all our heart and a way to respond to God, who is pursuing us. In direction we gather many threads together. We bring diverse prayers, impressions, and experiences into direction conversations to invite the Spirit of God to reveal themes and patterns, movements, and counter-movements that affect our spirit and life."
"Spiritual direction is a way to give caring attention to our relationship with God attention that is focused on lifes foundations underneath ordinary busyness. We offer ourselves and our hopes and fears to God in an openness that affirms our intention to listen."
"In spiritual direction the Holy Spirit continues to function and be perceived as both the teacher and the source of grace and power. We remain dependent on grace, seek to cooperate with the Spirit, and resist any illusions about our ability to be our true selves without Gods help. Intentionally giving our attention to God is both the beginning and the end goal of spiritual direction. We are not seeking change per se. We are seeking God, seeking fuller communion with the Holy Spirit, and seeking to trust God for and in whatever unfolds. We want to be aware of Gods presence with us, dwell more closely with God, and explore what it means to abide. We are learning to be more like Mary of Bethany, who sat at Jesus feet (Luke 10:38-42). No set of doctrines alone can do this for us."
Spiritual direction could best be described as learning to live daily in the grace of awareness. Of utmost importance we should recognize that spiritual direction takes place in the context of a relationship between two people. Spiritual direction is the ministry that belongs to every member of the Body of Christ. Unfortunately, we live in day and time when the three components required for the ministry of spiritual direction to flourish are most often not present. They are:
1. Total transparency of heart
Spiritual direction is a way of looking, a way of listening, that results in a deepening faith relationship. It is for those who desire to become intentional concerning their spiritual life. It is about our hunger to love and be loved as we are. It is about our desire to grow in love and to recognize and live out of the core of ourselves, which has been freed through relationship with Christ.
Why Do We Need Mentoring/Spiritual Direction?
"We define Christian spiritual direction, then, as help given by one Christian to another which enables the person to pay attention to Gods personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with this God and to live out the consequences of the relationship. The focus on this type of spiritual direction is on experience, not on ideas, and specifically religious experience, i.e., any experience of the mysterious Other whom we call God. Moreover, this experience is viewed, not as an isolated event, but as an ongoing expression of the ongoing personal relationship God has established with each one of us."
The Practice of Spiritual Direction
William Barry and William Connolly
To answer this question all we need do is turn to the pages of scripture. There we find words of instruction like these in 2 Timothy 2:1-4;
"You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier."
Isnt it amazing that when it came time for Paul the Apostle to reveal to his son in the faith, Timothy, the strategy for carrying the life of the Kingdom of our Lord from one family to another, from one community to another, from one nation to another, the instruction was given to use the vehicle of heart to heart, face to face relationships between hungry, seeking Believers. Without going into too great of detail, take a moment to ponder these observations regarding Pauls instruction.
This passage implies that you must first of all be teachable - you must be on a vital, personal, spiritual journey and pilgrimage toward the heart of the Father.
You must be an active participant in what I call, The Circle of Life. That circle means that you must be in a place where you are allowing someone access to your spiritual heart and you are opening your heart to receive instruction, correction, encouragement and accountability in your spiritual journey from that individual. But it also implies that you should be imparting this kind of life and guidance into the lives of others. You must be both a Paul and a Timothy both receiving and giving forth from your spiritual experience.
This is not easy and many times it is not convenient. It is what Paul is referring to when he tells Timothy that he will need to endure hardship as a good soldier.
Paul goes on to equate this Circle of Life with being engaged in warfare and he instructs us not to become entangled with the affairs of this life.
Finally, he says that this ongoing impartation of life through face-to-face, heart to heart relationships is what pleases our Lord.
Recently, I spoke with the respected pastor of a very large, vibrant congregation that has been experiencing steady growth in their ministry over a period of several years. As we shared our thoughts concerning the viability of Spiritual Direction for the Body of Christ he echoed the sentiment that this was one of the greatest burdens he carried for the people he pastored. He recognizes that if there is to be a true deepening and developing of Believers in a personal, intimate relationship with Christ the traditional vehicles of the modern day church of Sunday worship, Bible Study classes, special conferences and meetings were never going to be adequate. The thought of having many individuals in his fellowship who were involved in a vital spiritual journey, who were being mentored and discipled one on one, who were willing to walk into a personal relationship with another Believer who was hungry to know their God, brought a real sense of excitement to both of our hearts.
Now we face the crisis that the saints of the Lord are for the most part unwilling to confront. It is the crisis of -TIME. We do church the way we do in this culture mostly because we have forfeited, or should I say, we have allowed so much of our time to become entangled in temporal pursuits. We are seeking to do the Christian life on spare time and spare change and all we will ever have is what we now have. It is my conviction that if we are ever to answer the call of Abba Father to rise up and be the people He has called us to be, it will require that many of His servants be willing to make radical choices about how they are stewarding and investing the most valuable asset known to mankind TIME. I'll not be more specific than to say that when we compare the prosperity mentality that exist in todays cultural church, offering to God our leftover time, affection, and emotions with the New Testament picture of people who sacrificed all to make their spiritual life the center of all else, there exist a great disparity. He who would find God will find TIME!
Will You Answer His Call?
The first requirement is that you must be involved in a vital spiritual journey in your own heart - at a personal level. The church has not known what to do with the heart of a Child of God that responds to Abba Father's invitation and finds themselves desparate and hungry for communion with their God. What every hungy heart needs is to be nurtured, cultivated and encouraged. This is the ministry of Spiritual Direction - it is one desparate, hungry seeker of God helping another desparate, hungry seeker on the journey toward the Father's heart. Can you imagine the resource it will be to the Body of Christ to have an army of growing, teachable servants who are willing and available to invest their lives back into another who is seeking the same path?