Saturday, March 12, 2016

Seminary PM6: Good books for personal spiritual formation

The Seminary in a Nutshell series so far:

Chapter 1: The Calling of a Minister

Chapter 2: The Person of a Minister
Ministers have different personalities and strengths
We each experience God best in different ways.
There are certain classic spiritual disciplines for individuals.
There are spiritual disciplines we do in community.

Good books for personal spiritual formation
1. There are a couple classic books that Wesley Seminary students read in their first course. One is Henri Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus. In this short book, Nouwen warns against the drives to relevancy and to be spectacular.

His antidote to the itch for relevancy is contemplative prayer. Christian leaders need to be people who live in the presence of God, not just people who lead a moral life. Knowing that God loves us will fuel us and focus us on our relationship with Jesus rather than on passing relevance.

Antidotes to the drive to the spectacular are confession and vulnerability, seeking forgiveness and reflecting on the mind of Christ, which brings humility.

2. Another book students read in their first course is Dietrich Bonhoeffer's, Life Together. In some ways, this book counterbalances the first one. Bonhoeffer argues that Christians need to live out faith in community rather than on our own. We need our brothers and sisters in Christ. We mediate the presence of Christ to each other.

Bonhoeffer wrote this classic while leading a small group of men in secret seminary training. He praises reading the Scripture, prayer, work, and other spiritual disciplines. Living together helps us learn how to control our tongue.

3. There is a final book I want to mention that Colleen Derr added to her Congregational Formation class in the seminary that also seemed worth mentioning, Sabbath as Resistance, by Walter Brueggemann.

In this book, Brueggemann urges that we move beyond arguments over what the law demands to Sabbath as resistance and Sabbath as alternative. Sabbath is resistance against the culture of "now" and immediacy. Sabbath is alternative to all the chatter that clutters up all our "rest time."

Sabbath as resistance requires intentionality. It requires the reinforcement of community.

4. Not every pastor needs to hear these words as much as others. Some pastors need to get in gear for mission. Some need to become more relevant. Some need a dose of business sense. These spiritual gems are like proverbs. They each bring a truth needed on various occasions by various ministers. The Lord bring these truths to mind when we need them.

Here endeth the Person of the Minister.

Next week: Contexts of Ministry 1

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