Ways to Pursue Spiritual Formation
Published by Calvin Seminary
Christians looking for spiritual formation in their faith journey may consider seminary as a way to further both their spiritual formation and theological education.
It is important to note that spiritual formation can happen in any context in the life of a Christian; seminary—or advanced academic or theological training—is not required for a Christian to grow spiritually. However, for those who are considering and feeling called to a seminary education, spiritual formation can and should be an integral part of your seminary experience.
What Is Spiritual Formation?
Spiritual formation is the process of going deeper in your relationship with God. It is a chance to “encounter the love of that living God and to be transformed by it and to nurture the transformation of one another.”
What sorts of attributes of the triune God are also displayed in the spiritual formation of people?
- Consider the heart of God the Father, compassionate and abounding in lovingkindness (Exodus 34:6).
- Consider the character of Christ, loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:37–39). Christ also served others, and we may see Christlikeness formed in part through intentional and thoughtful service.
- Finally, consider the fruit of the Spirit as described in Galatians 5:22–23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
A person being formed by God may not display all of these characteristics at once, and certainly not fully, but these are some marks of sanctification that may be seen throughout the spiritual formation process. For those curious to learn more, Calvin Theological Seminary’s home denomination took a specific look at Christlikeness in 2023, focusing on prayer.
Do I Have to Attend Seminary to Be Conformed to the Image of Christ?
No, you don’t have to attend seminary to pursue spiritual formation. However, seminary should involve spiritual growth and is one avenue for seeking formation: spiritually, academically, and vocationally.
How to Pursue Spiritual Formation
Spiritual formation can come through many different practices. The following are just a few you can pursue individually, communally, or through a seminary education.
1. Personal Christian Formation
Reading the Bible
Spending time in God’s Word helps you to know and understand God and His purposes for us. This can be done individually and communally, such as through the Public Reading of Scripture.
Prayer is an opportunity to talk to and listen to God. The spiritual practice of prayer can be both an individual and communal pursuit. Corporate prayer is a regular and beneficial worship practice in many churches and other Christian communities.
Reading Spiritual Formation Books
Consider the following titles if you are interested in spiritual formation:
- Seeking God’s Face by Philip F. Reinders
- Teach Us to Pray: Scripture-Centered Family Worship through the Year by Elizabeth Vander Haagen and Lora A. Copley
- Under the Wings of God by Cornelius Plantinga
2. Spiritual Formation in Community
Regularly attending a church brings opportunities for worship, teaching and learning, community fellowship, encouragement, and accountability.
Practicing Spiritual Disciplines with Others
Learn more about spiritual disciplines and practices through the following resources from The Calvin Institute for Christian Worship:
- Participate in Worship: Jane Rogers Vann presents a workshop on spiritual formation in worship.
- Be formed for Leadership: Dale Cooper and Satrina Reid discuss soul-shaping practices for pastoral leaders.
3. Spiritual Formation at Seminary
Academic pursuits rooted in a Christian worldview can lead to opportunities for spiritual formation. Calvin Theological Seminary is a rich learning community in which you can pursue spiritual formation while also pursuing a degree or certificate.
Considering Spiritual Formation Programs
A strong Christian seminary program will have elements of spiritual formation in its curriculum and the community’s student life offerings. Look for seminaries that offer engaging chapels, vibrant student life opportunities, Bible studies and Scripture reading, and chances to gather in fellowship with classmates and their families.
Pursuing a Spiritual Formation Degree
Some seminary degrees may offer relevant concentrations in spiritual formation, such as Calvin’s Master of Arts in Christian Leadership concentration in Discipleship and Faith Formation or our new Doctor of Ministry concentration in Spiritual Formation and Missional Leadership.
Learn More About Spiritual Formation at CTS
If you’re ready to grow academically and spiritually, CTS may be the right place for you! We’d love to host you for an on-campus visit or virtual meeting soon.
Visit Calvin Theological Seminary’s Campus
We can’t wait to host you on campus! Schedule your visit today, or, if you need more time to find a date that works for you, please request information so we can continue the conversation about supporting your calling!