Spiritual Formation

FormationHere are some books about spiritual formation. According to Robert Mullholland, that’s “the process of being conformed to the likeness of Christ for the sake of others.” I think of it as making a series of choices in all areas of our life so that we live our lives more like Jesus lived his.

This isn’t an exhaustive list. It is my list.

Rather than putting them in order by topic, these are alphabetical by author. I’ve noted the author of the Foreword to show the threads of thought. Books marked with an asterisk are books that have particularly formed me. I don’t agree with everything every author says, just as they wouldn’t agree with me. If they knew me. Which they don’t.

And, so you know, these links are all affiliate links. That means that if you buy one of these, I will get a small amount of money in my Amazon account.


Barton, Ruth Haley. Invitation to Solitude and Silence. IVP, 2004. Foreword by Dallas Willard. A study about solitude taken from I Kings 19:1-19.

Barton, Ruth Haley. Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community. IVP, 2014.

Barton, Ruth Haley. Pursuing God’s will Together: A discernment practice for leadership groups. IVP, 2012. Taking spiritual formation practices into decisionmaking and discernment. Her model is to build community and then as community, to discern.

*Barton, Ruth Haley. Sacred Rhythms. IVP, 2006.
This is a collection of several spiritual practices with descriptions and practical exercises. She includes solitude, Scripture reading using Lectio Divina, prayer, self-examination, and others. Her description of develping a rule of life is particularly helpful. . 

*Buchanan, Mark. The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. W Publishing (Nelson), 2006.
This is the best-written book on sabbath and rest that I know. Buchanan removes legalism and adds freedom to our understanding. I particularly like how he uses the two commands on Sabbath keeping, one from Exodus and one from Deuteronomy, to help us see it as both backward and forward looking. Buchanan’s writing style is conversational. 

Bonhoeffer, Deitrich. Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian in Community. HarperOne, 2009.

Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. IVP, 2005.

Caliguire, Mindy. Discovering Soul Care. IVP. 2007. A short workbook.

Caliguire, Mindy. Spiritual Friendship. IVP, 2007.

Chan, Simon. Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life. IVP, 1998.

*Dweck, Carol S. Mindset: The New Psychology of SuccessRandom House, 2006.
It may seem strange to include this in a list of spiritual formation. But Dweck’s distinction of fixed and growth mindset has been mind-changing for me. It’s most often used in education. But the idea of changing and growing is core to the idea of formation. 

Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Growth, Revised Edition. Harper San Francisco, 1998. Foreword by Elton Trueblood.

*Heath, Chip and Dan Heath. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Broadway, 2010.
Spiritual formation is not only about changing behavior, but it includes behavior change. This book is a synthesis of research on change that has nothing to do with church, but everything to do with people and organizations.

Hybels, Bill. Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul. Tyndale, 2014.

MacDonald, Gordon. Restoring Your Spiritual Passion. Nelson, 1986.

March, James G. A Primer on Decision Making: How Decisions Happen. The Free Press, 1994

*Miller, Donald. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. Nelson, 2009.
Miller’s introduction of the idea of revising the story our lives are telling changed my life and those of several close to me. I reviewed this book in 2009

McKnight, Scot. The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others. Paraclete Press, 2004. Foreword by John Ortberg.
For McKnight, the definition of spiritual formation is living out the Great Commandment: love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor.

Martin, James. S.J. The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life. HarperCollins, 2010.
An overview of Ignatian spirituality (that’s the Jesuits). This is a clearly written explanation which is never preachy, always inviting.

McHugh, Adam S. Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture. IVP, 2009.

Mulholland, M Robert, Jr. Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation. IVP, 1993. Provost, professor at Asbury Theological Seminary.

Mulholland, M. Robert, Jr. The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering your True Self. IVP, 2006.

Muller, Wayne. Sabbath: Restoring the Sacred Rhythm of Rest. Bantam, 1999.

*Norris, Kathleen. Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith. Riverhead Books, 1998.
Norris reflects on religious terms and sacred feasts. As a poet, she can explore words well. 

Norris, Kathleen. The Cloister Walk. Riverhead Books, 1996.
I’m not sure why I read this book. I think it was after an NPR interview and while I was working at a Catholic college. Norris is a poet who had detached from church. After moving from NYC back to her grandmother’s house in South Dakota, she began attending her grandmother’s church. And then she became writer-in-residence at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota. She describes the cloister life and the writer’s life. It resonated deeply with me, and has, I think, shaped my way of writing about faith. 

*Peterson, Eugene. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. Eerdmans, 1989.

*Peterson, Eugene. Eat this book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading. Eerdmans, 2006. Peterson is talking about lectio divina, a way of reading the Bible. This book changed my life.

Peterson, Eugene. The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways That Jesus is the WayEerdmans, 2007

Peterson, Eugene. The Pastor: A Memoir. HarperOne, 2011.

Peterson, Eugene. Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness. Eerdmans, 1992. Looking at Jonah as a parable for pastors.

Scazzero, Peter. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ. Nelson, 2006.

Scazzero, Peter. The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes Lives. Zondervan, 2010.

Setran, David P. and Chris A. Kiesling. Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood. Baker, 2013.

Shigematsu, Ken. God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God. Zondervan, 2013.

Sittser, Gerald. Water from a Deep Well. Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries. IVP, 2007. Foreword by Eugene Peterson.

Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows. IVP, 2009.

Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ. IVP. 2010.

Smith, James Bryan. The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love. IVP, 2010.

Stetzer, Ed and Thom Rainer. Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations. B&H, 2010.

Strobel, Kyle. Metamorpha: Jesus as a Way of Life. Baker, 2007. Foreword by John Ortberg.

Swanson, Jon. A Great Work: Conversations with Nehemiah for People Who Are Doing Great Work. 2013.

Swanson, Jon. Lent for Non-Lent People. 2014.

Swanson, Jon. Learning a New Routine. 2012

Talbot, John Michael, with Steve Rabey. The Lessons of St. Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality into Your Daily Life. Dutton, 1997.

Wakefield, James L. Sacred Listening: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola. Baker, 2006. Adapting the exercises of St Ignatius Loyola for protestants.

Wangerin, Walter, Jr. Whole Prayer: Speaking and Listening to God. Zondervan, 1998. Foreword by Eugene Peterson. Prayer as conversation in four parts: We speak, God listens, God speaks, we listen.

*Wilhoit, James S. Spiritual Formation as if Church Mattered: Growing in Christ Through Community. Baker, 2008. Foreword by Dallas Willard.

Willard, Dallas. Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God. IVP, 2012.

Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Navpress, 2002.

Willard, Dallas. The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’s Essential Teachings on Discipleship. HarperSanFrancisco, 2006

Willard, Dallas and John Ortberg. Living in Christ’s Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God. IVP, 2014

*Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. HarperCollins, 1998.

Witt, Lance. Replenish: Leading from a Healthy Soul. Baker, 2011. Foreword by John Ortberg. Written for church leaders to bring order to the backstage part of their lives.


Thielman, Frank. Ephesians (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). 2010.


Spirituality Shoppe Evan Howard has several exercises. And here’s a presentation about where spiritual formation has been and is going.


Introduction to Spiritual Formation – a video course from Talbot Seminary

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