Journey Into Wholeness or Journey Into Worldliness?
A comment on "40 Days of Reflection & Growth" (Spiritual Formation) being taught at Trevecca Nazarene University
by Sandy Simpson, 12/15/09

The teachings of "spiritual formation", another term for the Emerging/Emergent/Emergence Church (EC) movement, are defined by Ray Yungen and others published by Lighthouse Trails as follows:

Spiritual Formation: A movement that has provided a platform and a channel through which contemplative prayer is entering the church. Find spiritual formation being used, and in nearly every case you will find contemplative spirituality. In fact, contemplative spirituality is the heartbeat of the spiritual formation movement. (Lighthouse Trails, Spiritual Formation? Another name for Contemplative Spirituality, 2009,
Those who promote these teachings in the EC go back to Richard Foster who brought the practices of Catholic mystics and New Age into the churches back in the mid 1970s.  Please get the new free "The Emerging Church" DVD where I talk about what Foster was up to then in a personal testimony.

Foster apparently thinks that what he helped start in the EC is and "answer to the cry of multiplied thousands for spiritual direction".

"By now enough water has gone under the Christian Spiritual Formation bridge that we can give some assessment of where we have come and what yet needs to be done. When I first began writing in the field in the late 70s and early 80s the term "Spiritual Formation" was hardly known, except for highly specialized references in relation to the Catholic orders. Today it is a rare person who has not heard the term. Seminary courses in Spiritual Formation proliferate like baby rabbits. Huge numbers are seeking to become certified as Spiritual Directors to answer the cry of multiplied thousands for spiritual direction. And more." (Spiritual Formation, A Pastoral Letter by Richard Foster, 2009, cited in
Foster's boast, though completely erroneous with regard to actual "spiritual direction" is correct as you will see on the following lists of organizations that have bought into this stuff.
"From time to time God has raised up a parachurch movement to reemphasize a neglected purpose of the church... The Discipleship. Spiritual Formation Movement. A reemphasis on developing believers to full maturity has been the focus ... authors such as ... Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have underscored the importance of building up Christians and establishing personal spiritual disciplines.... [this] movement has a valid message for the church...[it] has given the body a wake-up call. (Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church, p. 126.)
The clams of benefits from "spiritual formation" and the use of "spiritual disciplines", as you will see, have nothing to do with spirituality at all but rather the soul and the flesh and paranormal formation.  Though Dallas Willard gives lip service to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, he then launches into completely unbiblical territory.
"Sometimes we think of spiritual formation as formation by the Holy Spirit. Once again. That's essential. We can't evade it--formation by the Holy Spirit. But now I have to say something that may be challenging for you to think about: Spiritual formation is not all by the Holy Spirit. None without the Holy Spirit. But there's always more involved. And here again we run into the problems of passivity over against activity. Here lies the deepest challenge to the very idea obedience to Christ in our times. We have to recognize that spiritual formation in us is something that is also done to us by those around us, by ourselves, and by activities which we voluntarily undertake ...There has to be method." (Spiritual Formation, What is it and How is it Done? by Dallas Willard)
The simple use of common sense, before we even go to the Bible for what God uses to form us spiritually, tells us that if these pragmatic methods pulled from psychology and the New Age work for Christians without the Holy Spirit, then they should also work for unbelievers.  That means that unbelievers can be built up spiritually by employing them and get closer to God.  This is exactly the claim of every Eastern mystic and many false religions out there.  But the fact is that we cannot be "formed" spiritually as Christians apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, our teacher, through the final revelation of the written Word of God.  That leaves unbelievers out of the picture of real spiritual formation.  If a Christian thinks they can use worldly methods to be molded into what God wants them to be, then it will not be too long before they return to the useless lump of clay they were before they claimed to have been born again.  Furthermore, any true believer who has the Spirit of Truth living in him/her will not use worldly methods like mantras, contemplative prayer, labyrinth, trances, visualization or any of the many New Age methods employed by false religions for the simple reason that they are false.  We are to pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17) but that does not involve a disconnect of the mind (1 Cor. 14:15).  We are to meditate (Ps. 119:11) but not on our belly buttons or on nothingness but on the written Word.  God "forms" us by (1) giving us the indwelling Holy Spirit at the new birth who is then our Counselor and Teacher (1 Jn. 2:27) and (2) God does this through the study of His Word (2 Tim. 2:15), which contains the very voice of God through His prophets and Apostles, not to mention His Son!  We are to study to show ourselves approved, not employ human methodology and zeal to run after things that have been imported into the churches from the New Age.  The fact that so many Christian organizations have been taken in by the false teachers of the EC is amazing to me.  Have they not used the brains the Lord gave them to see that none of these pragmatic tools help a person spiritually in the least?

This is a partial list of ministries that are now promoting Spiritual Formation.

Alpha Course,, Focus on the Family, Awana Clubs, Tyndale Seminary (Canada), CMA (Christian Management Association), InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Reformed Church in America, Biola University, Bethel Seminary, Salvation Army, Dallas Theological Seminary, Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Dallas Willard, Renovare, Redeemer Presbyterian of New York City (Tim Keller), Saddleback Church and Purpose Driven, Vanguard Church, Presbyterian Church USA, Upper Room Ministries, Zondervan Publishers, Simpson University (Redding, CA), Kairos School of Spiritual Formation, Intervarsity Press, Willow Creek, Youth Specialties, Abilene Christian University, Mennonite USA, George Fox University, Tervecca Nazarene University, Nazarene Theological Seminary ... (
For a more complete list of christian colleges that now promote EC/Spiritual Formation, go here:
For a list of Christian publishers promoting EC/Spiritual Formation, go here:
For a list of EC/Spiritual Formation organizations by Richard Foster, go here:
This "Journey Into Wholeness" course is taken from EC materials, clearly promoting "spiritual formation". It is also using the 40-day motif of Rick Warren's "purpose" books.  The fact is when you look closely at what is being taught it has little to do with the spirit and more to do with body and mind.  If we are to become mature in Christ, the Bible tells us that we must be formed into the image of Christ,
Ga 4:19  My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,
The only way to be molded into the image of Christ is to allow the indwelling Holy Spirit, Who is our teacher, to teach us about God and about what He expects from us through the written Word.
1Jo 2:27  As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
2 Tim. 3:16-17  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Following, in blue color, are the first set of teachings from this course.
40 Days of Reflection & Growth

Week 1: Introduction

WHOLENESS: Rather than our life being made up of a separate silo for our physical life, emotional life, intellectual life, relational life, and spiritual life—so that each area is separate from the others—we are whole people.  One aspect of our life is integrally related to the other.  Rather than our spiritual life being the center of a wheel and everything else being the spokes—so that if we just get our spiritual life together, then everything else will come along—our walk with God is the entire wheel.  Our walk with God IS our physical bodies, our emotions, our intellect, and our relationships! As we continue to make a journey together over the next 40 days, we will reflect in an honest and open way on our physical bodies, our emotions, our intellect, and our relationships.  We will explore aspects in each of these areas where we can grow and develop.  We will face our weaknesses and impediments in each of these areas honestly and openly.  We will dream and imagine of ways to “move on” beyond these weaknesses so that we can be whole, healthy, and growing people.  We will celebrate what it means for us to be made in God’s image in our entirety—body, emotions, intellect, and relationships.

It is noteworthy to notice that they start out talking about the spirit then jump into emphasis on the body, emotions, intellect and relationships.  All those aspects of humanity are encompassed by the body and soul.  They have left the spirit behind and are focusing the rest of the discussion on those two aspects without dealing with the spirit.  This is because they are coming from a perspective that there is only body and soul as opposed to what the Scripture teaches about humans: that they are tripartite beings (1 Thes. 5:23) created in the image of their Creator Who is a Triune being.

As to moving on beyond the weaknesses of human body and soul, you cannot do that by dreaming and imagining.  You can only do that when you realize that God is strong and you are weak, as Paul did.

2Co 12:9  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
But this is not what they are talking about.  This course is a way to somehow imagine your way to strength.  That is utter human folly.
Just to begin the thought processes…

Can you think of a time or two in your journey, where one aspect of your life (your physical life, your emotions, your relationships, your intellect) began to affect other aspects of your life? Right now in your journey, which aspect of your life do you believe is the healthiest?  Which aspect do you believe is the weakest? Who is holding you accountable to make healthy choices in each aspect of your life? How have you seen God working in the various aspects of your life?

Week 2: Mind

This week we reflect on the role that our mind has in our life and how we are nourishing our minds… Can you think of a time in your journey when you had one of those mental “a-ha” moments and came across a totally new way of thinking or even new information that you had not known before? How did you respond? When it comes to using your mind, how do you perceive yourself? Where did this self-perception of your mind come from? How does this self perception affect your ability to think and to learn? What occupies your mind and thought processes during most of the day? In a typical learning setting, do you tend to engage your mind or do you tend to put it more into “neutral”? Why? What do you consider to be the top two or three sources in your life for giving you ways to think? When you are seeking information, where do you tend to go first? When you are introduced to new thoughts or concepts, how do you tend to react? Are you receptive to new ideas? How do you evaluate and analyze those thoughts and concepts? In exercising your mind, what are the two greatest struggles you face? What are two strengths? How do you see the interrelationship between your mind and your physical life? Your emotions? Your relationships? How does your walk with God affect your mind and thought processes? How does your mind and thought processes affect your walk with God?

What is entirely missing in this section dealing with the mind is the most important thing Christians must do to "nourish" their minds: the study of God's word.
Ps 119:11  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
If you are not filling your mind with the written Word then you will not be able to discern truth from error, which is the Biblical mark of a mature Christian.
Ro 12:2  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Heb 5:14  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Simply exploring the questions above will not yield results that will help the mind.  It is simply an intellectual exercise that would tend to make a person self-absorbed rather deny oneself and become more aware of God.
Lu 9:23  Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
In fact all this focus on self will cause a person to do the opposite of what God requires in following Him.  To know how God affects your mind and thought process you need to know about God and about His will for your life, and you will not find that out by doing mental and emotional exercises. It is a crying shame that they are teaching this stuff to "young minds full of mush" at Nazarene schools instead of what the Bible teaches.  This is more in line with psychology than Christian teaching.
Week 3: Body

This week we reflect on the role that our physical body has in our life and how we are caring for our bodies...In taking care of your body, what are the two greatest struggles you face? What are two strengths? What does your daily diet look like? Are you aware of your calorie and fat intake? Do you attempt to eat foods that will provide healthy nourishment to your body? Why do you eat the way that you do? During a typical week, what type of exercise does your body get? What most often prohibits you from exercise and what can you do to overcome what prohibits you? On a regular basis, are you getting between 7-9 hours of sleep each night? Can you think of examples where lack of sleep affected your mind, relationships, and emotions? What most often prohibits you from getting the sleep that your body needs in order to remain healthy? How do you handle stress? Do you have someone with whom you can talk to when you are dealing with significant stress? Do you spend at least 30 minutes a day engaging in something relaxing to your body and mind? Are there other practices in your life that affect your physical life in negative ways that you might begin to deal with? Do you monitor the health of your body by regular physical check-ups with a physician? How do you see the interrelationship between your physical body and your mind? Your emotions? Your relationships? How does your walk with God affect the way in which you care for your body? How does the health of your body affect your walk with God?

All good questions.  But how does the health of your body improve your walk with God, as opposed to your being sick, for instance?  God allowed Paul to be sick in order to remind Him often that Paul was only strong in the Lord, not because of physical health.  If we rely on our physical health it may cause us to be caught up in the pride of life instead of fully relying on the Lord.
1Jo 2:16  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
We are to be in the world but not of the world.  The pride of life is of the world.  Our boast must be in the Lord, not in our physical well or ill being.
Ga 6:14  May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which {Or whom} the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Jer 9:23-24  This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.
It was because of an illness that God left Paul with the Galatians for a longer time in order that Paul would be able to effectively preach the Gospel to them.
Ga 4:13  As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you.
It is a good thing to take care of the body God created for us.  But we must always remember that there are more important things, like serving the Lord in sickness and in health, ultimately laying up treasure in heaven.  If I lack physical strength and wellness, will I not even more heavily rely on the Lord for my strength?
Week 4: Relationships

This week we reflect on the role that our relationships have on our life and how we are caring for those relationships...In taking care of your relationships, what are the two greatest struggles you face?  What are two areas of relational strength? Are there relationships that need to be initiated, reconciled, or renewed? How do you know if your relationships are healthy? How healthy are your relationships with your family, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, roommates, etc.? During a typical week, how much time are you investing in others? What ways are you investing in others? What most often prohibits you from being fully available to others? Are there any relationships in which you have become judgmental, exclusive or proud? What steps can you take towards resolving those issues? Do you have a relationship in which you are held accountable to the way you live your life? Are you able to be truly vulnerable and authentic with this person? In what ways do you practice hospitality towards others? How approachable are you by those that know you? How approachable are you by those who don’t know you? What qualities do you expect in a good friend? Do you possess these qualities? How do you see the interrelationship between your relationships and your mind? Your emotions? Your body? How does your walk with God affect the way in which you care for others?  How does the health of your relationships affect your walk with God?

All these questions are good ones and would help a person think about being less self-centered and more in tune with others.  However, in asking these questions the person is led to turn inward for the answers instead of asking the Holy Spirit for the answers in God's Word.  A person can spend so much time psychoanalyzing themselves that they become inward focused and even if they have a desire to interact with others they are now spending all their time trying to figure out why they are not interacting with others, and it becomes a viscous cycle.  Better to ask God Who He wants you to witness to and disciple and then go do it.  That is the Biblical way, circumventing all this need for psycho babble.

Also, the main emphasis in this "relationships" section is on human  relationships and God is left out of the picture.  Should we not focus our lives on walking with God first, then loving our brother?

Lu 10:27  He answered: "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; {Deut. 6:5} and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’" {Lev. 19:18}
If we look to ourselves first for the answers instead of to God, then we have it all backwards.  It is only from God through His Word that we can then learn to deny ourselves and effectively reach others for Christ.  You will notice that witness of the Gospel is completely left out of this course, which should be our first obligation.
Mr 16:15  He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
Any "spiritual formation" that leaves out the Gospel will form nothing of eternal value.

          Week 5: Walk with God

We also recognize that the intentional time we spend with God both personally and corporately is the “glue” which holds all of the various aspects of our life together. The disciplines that we practice become pathways in which God’s grace flows into our lives enabling us to become more and more Christ-like. This week we reflect on the role that spiritual disciplines have on our life and how we are nurturing our relationship with God.. How is your relationship with God? What are you basing this perception on.  During a typical week, how much time are you intentionally investing into your relationship with God? What most often prohibits you from being fully available to God? What spiritual disciplines (i.e. prayer, reading scripture, corporate worship, etc.) are you currently practicing? What are the fruit of these disciplines? Are there disciplines that you are not currently practicing that you want to start incorporating into your life? How can you begin to do that? Are there disciplines which you are not attracted to (i.e. fasting, silence, solitude, etc.), but might need in your life? Are you open to putting these into practice? How? What kind of accountability will you need in order to hold to these disciplines? Is there a person or a group that could provide this for you? Are you holding others accountable? How do you see the interrelationship between your walk with God and your mind? Your emotions? Your body? How does your walk with God affect the way you live?  How does the way you live affect your walk with God?
Now they finally get to something about relationship with God.  This should have come before anything else, yet is it relegated to point 5.  There is an obvious push to accept and practice what they are calling "spiritual disciplines", lumping them together with true spiritual activities such as prayer, Bible study, worship, etc.  The new ones they want the student to add are things like "fasting, silence and solitude".  Fasting is something Christians can do but is it not a command of Scripture nor is  it on a par Biblically with prayer, Bible study and corporate worship.  Silence and solitude are not even mentioned as spiritual disciplines in the Bible.  Jesus went to the wilderness in solitude but He did so to pray.  We can "be still" (Ps. 46:10) and know the He is God in order to listen to Him and see His mighty works if we are silencing the Lord by our words and activities, but this does not mean we are to empty our minds. Again we see no mention of the spirit here but only of the body and soul.  The whole focus of this section is to get the student to accept that fasting, silence and solitude are something they must do in order to be spiritual formed and they are encouraged to come under accountability to do it.  Is this not Pharisaical to the max?  Is this not adding the same kind of spiritual requirements to have a relationship with God that the Catholic Church has done for centuries?  This is no different than adding requirements such as baptismal regeneration, circumcision, prayers to Mary, sacraments, and other requirements to either be saved or grow in the Faith.  This type of legalism is called and abomination by Paul.
Week 6: Emotions

This week we reflect on the role that our emotions have on our life and how we are staying emotionally healthy...How in touch are you with your emotions? Are you emotionally healthy? What are you basing this self-diagnosis on? What in your life gives you joy?  What is discouraging you? When your emotions get out of control, how do you respond (e.g. suppress, express, mask with an addiction, etc.)? Are you carrying emotional baggage from your past which still hinders you from living life to the fullest? What is it? How can you begin to let it go? Are you concerned about the emotional health of others? Is there a relationship in which you are causing emotional damage? How can you begin to restore this relationship? Do you have someone with whom you can talk to when you are under emotional duress? Do you spend at least 30 minutes a day engaging in something which relaxes you? Are there other things in your life that affect your emotions in negative ways that you might begin to deal with? Do you monitor the health of your emotions through regular appointments with a counselor? How do you see the interrelationship between your emotions and your mind? Your body? Your relationships? How does your walk with God affect you emotionally?  How do your emotions affect your walk with God?

What a stupid question!  "How in touch are you with your emotions"?  You can only be out of touch with your emotions if you are physically dead.  Otherwise your emotions are part of you makeup.  A better question would be "How much do you allow God to be in control of your emotions"?   The language in this section clearly shows that it is taken directly out of a psychology book.  If you are under emotional stress, those "30 minutes a day" should be spent in prayer and in Bible study if you want to solve that problem.  Taking a vacation from stress is only a temporary solution, such as relaxation, drugs, etc.  In claiming to promote a Godly solution to emotional problem, they not only use worldly methods but they are actually suggesting another temporary fix.  Who says that a person needs to "monitor they health of their emotions through regular appointments with a counselor"?  This sounds like an advertisement.  Should our emotions effect our relationship with God?  No.  Why not say that if your emotions are adversely affecting your relationship with God then you need to get your heart right with Him by asking the Lord to give you wisdom through His Word?  Why not tell them to read 1 & 2 Corinthians where Paul struggles with this subject?

The bottom line is that this EC type of questionnaire gets the student to look within themselves for the answer instead of to the written Word.  This can only lead to more confusion and will certainly not lead to spiritual formation.