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Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered: Growing in Christ through Community [Paperback]

By James C. Wilhoit (Author) & Dallas Willard (Foreword by)
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Item description for Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered: Growing in Christ through Community by James C. Wilhoit & Dallas Willard...

Spiritual formation is undoubtedly a timely and popular topic in our materialistic culture. Plenty of high-quality books have been published, including the works of Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Yet most of these resources focus on the individual. James Wilhoit leads readers in a new direction by focusing on the impact that Christian community can have on spiritual development in Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered. Also unique to this treatment is its historical and ecumenical approach. Perhaps the most important metaphor throughout the text is that of a journey. Spiritual progress is not a destination; instead, it is a continuous process. Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered offers an introduction to spiritual formation set squarely in the local church. As such it is appropriate for professors and students (both undergraduate and graduate) but it is also helpful for church leaders and spirituality readers. Features that enhance this work include its brief chapters, sidebar content, and for further reading annotations.

Publishers Description
The yearning and restlessness of our souls drive us toward God. This hunger and homesickness is the beginning of spiritual formation, according to James C. Wilhoit. In "Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered," Wilhoit takes a unique approach to the topic. Whereas most books focus on the individual's spiritual transformation, this one intentionally concentrates on how the local church itself is the seedbed of spiritual growth and how the process is a community effort. This book's short chapters, sidebar material, and concluding prayers fit well with readers' busy lives without sacrificing quality and depth of content.

From Publishers Weekly
The title of this tightly woven, consistently challenging meditation on Christian spiritual formation serves notice that this book is going to be more than another self-help manual. Indeed, Wheaton College professor Wilhoit, author of The Christian Educator's Handbook on Spiritual Formation, asserts that although developing "Christlikeness" in its members is the church's main job, many congregations have either abandoned old practices without developing new ones, or have relied on stratagems instead of on God's grace. Because he views spiritual growth as a lifelong process, Wilhoit delineates a communal perspective on responding to Jesus' invitation to love God and neighbor, emphasizing shared practice and learning. His "four pillars of formation" include receiving, or being open to God's grace; remembering, or understanding who we are and why we were created; responding in service to neighbors and the world; and building relationships in the context of community. In alternating chapters, Wilhoit gives readers theological and Biblical foundations for each principle, then suggests a set of practices. While it would be easy to get lost in the sober volume, this skilled writer uses many pedagogical tools to keep his audience focused. Clearly written from an evangelical perspective, this cogent and passionate book deserves to have wide appeal. (Feb.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered: Growing in Christ through Community by James C. Wilhoit & Dallas Willard has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Publishers Weekly - 11/12/2007 page 52
  • Library Journal - 06/15/2008 page 74

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Baker Academic
Pages   233
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.89" Width: 6.03" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   0.7 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 5, 2012
Publisher   Baker Publishing Group
Edition  Reprinted  
ISBN  0801027764  
ISBN13  9780801027765  

Availability  115 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 19, 2017 05:19.
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More About James C. Wilhoit & Dallas Willard

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! James C. Wilhoit (PhD, Northwestern University) is the Scripture Press Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, where he has taught for thirty years. He has authored numerous books, including Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered. Leland Ryken (PhD, University of Oregon) is professor emeritus of English at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and the author or editor of nearly forty books, including Words of Delight: A Literary Introduction to the Bible.

James C. Wilhoit currently resides in the state of Illinois.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > Discipleship
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General
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4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General
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Reviews - What do customers think about Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered: Growing in Christ through Community?

WhiloitFan  Dec 26, 2008
This is a very good practical book on the issues (sin, openness to God, etc) that are of primary importance if we are going to develop a growing relationship to God.
Church does matter  Sep 2, 2008
Spiritual formation has become a catchphrase in churches and is gathering as much attention as churches that are `emerging.' Unfortunately, different people understands spiritual formation differently. To some, it is the practice of spiritual disciplines, to others the introduction of ancient spiritual practices, while in yet other churches, it is adding candles to the church service. James C. Wilhoit is the Scripture Press Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College. He explains that "Christian spiritual formation refers to the intentional communal process of growing in our relationship with God and becoming conformed to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit" (2008, 23).

The key words of note are Christian, intentional, communal, process, Christ-likeness, and the Holy Spirit. Wilhoit proposes a `curriculum for Christlikeness' which have the following dimensions (1) receiving, (2) remembering, (3) responding, and (4) relating. Each dimension has a few `community practices' to achieve it. This curriculum is for community spiritual formation. Receiving is to be open to the grace of God and involve `worship, confession, sacraments, and prayer' as community practices. Remembering means `tranformational teaching' leading to knowing that we are part of God's community. The community practices are `teaching, preaching, evangelism, meditation, spiritual guidance, and small groups'. Responding is in service and involves `discernment, honouring relational commitment, setting aside prejudices, ministries of compassion.' Relating is living in a faith community and involves `hospitality, handling conflict well, honouring relationships, Sabbath observance, (and) attending to pace of life.'

The community practices are similar to that of the Christian practices as suggested by Dysktra, Dorothy Bass and Diana Bass (Bass 1997; Bass 2004; Dykstra 2005). Wilhoit recognises that we are all being spiritually formed all the time and that formation through the work of the Holy Spirit occurs before conversion (2008, 27). He builds upon and interacts with Dallas Willard's work on spiritual formation (1988;1998; 2002). However he did not interact with Willard's psychosocial transformation of the soul as spiritual formation (2002,38-39).

Instead, he uses the concept of the `imitation of Christ' as the means and ends of spiritual formation (Meye 1994). Also, he did not expand on how different this is from discipleship. Growing in Christlikeness through community implied that community is the matrix in which spiritual formation takes place. However, aside from naming the community practices, Wilhoit did not explain how the community become the means of spiritual growth. Are the community practices the only means of spiritual formation? Are there any weightage to the community practices? Are any practices more important than others? Who is to practice these community practices? Does it involve only the pastors, leaders or everyone? It must be recognised that it is unrealistic to expect all the members of the church to practice all the community practices.

Community practices are also spiritual disciplines practiced by individuals (Foster 1989; Whitney 1991; Tan and Gregg 1997). Whitney has shared on some ways how some of these disciplines can be used for both individual and the church (1996). However both Wilhoit and Whitney has not indicated whether there is a critical level of participation of members of a community before that community becomes a context for spiritual formation. What is this critical level? The weakness of this model based on community practices is the danger of legalism. The Pharisees in the bible epitome legalism in spiritual practices. Though theologian Roy Zuck has written in length on the role of the Holy Spirit and educator Parker Palmer of the importance of the teacher, the danger is real as the community practices become the end rather than the means (Zuck 1984; Palmer 1998). It may become another `church activity.'

It will have been useful if Wilhoit has explained how his community spiritual formation model can be sustained. Baptist Jeff Woods concludes from his meta-analysis of recent congregational studies done in the United States that there are five factors of influence in a congregation that is spiritually vital. They are (1) a willingness to change, (2) right theological thinking, (3) appropriate organisational metaphors, (4) clarity of purpose, and (4) missional leadership (2003). Wilhoit in his survey of the bible discovered that there are three families of images or metaphor for spiritual formation; nurture, journey and resurrection (2008, 24-25). These organisational metaphors are appropriate as church does matter in spiritual formation. Spiritual formation is not about a lone wanderer but a people journeying together.


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