The quest for Spiritual Formation falls in the academic field of spirituality. The Oxford Dictionary defines “spirituality” as the quality or condition of being spiritual. In turn it defines “spiritual” as devout, holy, pious, morally good. Kenneth Leech defined Christian Spirituality in the 1980's as being about a process of formation. We are thus formed by, and in, Christ. For Leech – it (Spiritual Formation) is a form of Christ-[ening] – being clothed with Christ, and so being transformed into the same image. This simple description seems to conform Paul’s understanding of this in Romans (8:29) when he links destiny, vocation and spiritual formation:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that they might be the firstborn among many brethren.”In simple language to be formed as a Christian – in this instance, formed as a leader – is to be formed into the image of Jesus. It is interesting to note that Paul consistently makes use of the Greek word “icon” to the describe the image we are suppose to be transformed into – thus this image is not an end in itself – but rather a window of a larger reality. Thus we become an image/window of a larger reality – in this case, an image of Christ – not a representation but rather a window.
The major question would then be how this happens – the process of formation. A preliminary reading of the Pauline writings suggests that there might be a very clear model of spiritual/leadership formation in his thoughts/theology. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians (3:18):
“And we all (literally in the Greek – in the midst of us all – or, all of us together), with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord as within a mirror are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”Three elements/steps seem to emerge from an inner texture analysis of this text that might be useful to describe a Pauline understanding of spiritual/leadership formation:
- Accept our environment (…and we all…) – this might describe the value/act of giving consent to where God puts us – a sensitivity to our context – Situational Leadership. This might further refer to accept the calling/vocation that our situations bring to us.
- Have voluntary honesty (…with unveiled face…) – a socio-cultural reading of this links Paul’s use of this reference with both Old Testament thoughts as well as the Greek use of masks in their comedy and tragic plays. This might describe the values/acts of integrity/authentic approaches in leadership.
- Have a determined (devotional) focus on our deepest inner truth (…beholding as within a mirror the glory of the Lord…) – this might refer to the willingness to be gathered and formed by our inherent “spiritual” truths within us – in a Christian sense to surrender to the Truth of the Spirit within us. In a nutshell the willingness to be formed by the image/ethos/attitude of Christ.
It seems to me that when these three elements work together that Christian spiritual and leadership formation takes place within the follower/leader.