My spiritual formation journey picked up speed when I repented of my sin in a fresh way and sought God. I was just a boy when God got ahold of my heart early and changed my life.
Even in my adolescence, God used some of the core disciplines in this book to shape me, the effects of which I still carry with me today. My parents had laid the groundwork, and God used that foundation and a handful of other people to jumpstart my early experiences with God.
It was God himself who formed me.
In the time since those early experiences, as God has continued to form me (and even put up with me), I’ve compiled lessons along the way, and this workbook contains some of the most important ones I’ve learned thus far on my spiritual formation journey.
The Intended Reader for This Book
I wrote this workbook for disciples of Jesus at all points in their walk: from the new Christian to the pastor of a church, from the young disciple to the seasoned disciple-maker. It’s for any follower of Jesus who wants to experience the fullness of God in a fresh way.
In Christ we “have been given fullness,” but we are still encouraged to “press on toward the goal to win the prize” for which God has called us “heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Col. 2:10; Phil. 3:14).
The exercises in this workbook can help any disciple grow.
The goal of this workbook is to help you take your next steps with God. I share lessons I’ve learned and offer prompts to help you determine your course of action each step of the way. My hope is that, by the grace of God, you can use this resource to make progress on your spiritual formation journey.
The devotional material in these pages was birthed from my personal experiences and from my interactions with students as I’ve taught spiritual formation in my church.
The first time I taught a class on spiritual formation, I created the first iteration of this workbook so everyone could walk away with a customized plan. The people in that class and those in the young adults’ group I was leading found value in what I created, so I expanded that first iteration into what you’re holding now.
I saw how it helped people to put their plan on paper, so I wanted to make it available to even more people and churches. May you benefit from this workbook as others have.
What Makes Your Spiritual Formation Plan Unique
Dallas Willard has said that while we talk a lot about following Christ‘s commands, ”Christians generally don’t have a plan for teaching people to do everything that he commanded.“
This workbook pairs with the Spiritual Formation video course to help you develop just such a plan. It uniquely helps you craft your own spiritual formation plan. Use this workbook if you want to craft a plan with God for your spiritual formation journey.
While books like Dallas Willard‘s Renovation of the Heart, Richard Foster‘s The Celebration of Disciplines, and John Ortberg‘s The Life You’ve Always Wanted provide excellent teaching and practical guidance on learning the disciplines, this devotional workbook actually becomes your plan. It‘s ”devotional“ because it teaches and guides, and it‘s a workbook because it asks questions, prompts exercises, and makes room to write.
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Three Important Influences
As I wrote the devotionals for this workbook and created prompts, three major influences formed my thinking.
1. Dallas Willard. First, Dallas Willard’s books have made a profound impact on my life in general, but one book in particular inspired me to think in terms of crafting a literal plan. In his book The Spirit of the Disciplines, he writes about the reality that we are called to obey all of Christ’s commands, as Jesus made clear in the Great Commission.
Then, Willard pushes the idea further to say that we need a plan in order for this happen. His statement about planning for spiritual formation should capture our attention: “It is the rare leader or teacher today who can calmly say, ‘Here’s how you do it,’ and state specific tried and true steps actually accessible to the earnest inquirer.”
I’ve found this to be true, even today. This workbook doesn’t contain the way for planning spiritual formation, but it serves as a way to help others start a workable plan toward obedience to all of Jesus’ commands.
2. The Means of Grace. The second influence that drives the content of this workbook is the idea that spiritual disciplines are God’s “means of grace”—ways through which God pours out his grace into our lives.
Spiritual formation happens as we practice spiritual disciplines, and these disciplines are key ways we receive blessings from God.
The practices I encourage in this book are channels through which God floods us with his overwhelming grace. This grace, poured out through the Holy Spirit, changes our hearts and lives as we participate with God through our actions. We’re set free to run hard after God, the benefit of which is “holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Rom. 6:22).
3. The Idea of Learning by Trying. The third influence is something I learned through personal experience: spiritual formation is a journey that requires time, training, and experimentation.
This workbook presents a unique opportunity to experiment and play as you make plans for your journey. What drives this work-in-progress mentality is the idea that we grow by experimenting with spiritual disciplines.
The idea of “experimenting” with anything usually connotes bad behavior, but we ought to change that! When we experiment in good ways with pure hearts before the Lord, it’s difficult to go very wrong, especially if we’re humble and experiment in community and in constant communication with God.
I emphasize experimentation here because many of the exercises in this workbook assume you’re willing to put yourself out there and try new practices. In the pages that follow, I ask you to put pen to paper, brainstorm, and play with ideas, and for some of you this might feel uncomfortable. But if you can bear some momentary discomfort, you will grow stronger in the end.
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Back Cover of the Book
Take Your Next Steps with God,and Cultivate Spiritual Disciplines for a Lifetime
In Your Spiritual Formation Plan, I guide you along the spiritual formation journey. Find direction as you take your next steps on the path of maturity, and chart your course for spiritual growth—starting where you are, not where you wish you were on the path toward Christlike character.
Packed with punchy prompts, this action-oriented resource provides what you need in order to cultivate ten core spiritual disciplines. Receive guidance as you form a cohesive plan for growth. Start by creating your Rule of Life—the keystone of this workbook—and form a clear vision for your life in Christ. Then, put your plans into action with the 21-Day Challenge and continue taking action with ten core disciplines. Finish by forming a plan for when you’ve completed this workbook.
The goal of this workbook is to help you cultivate lifelong spiritual habits that lead to real transformation.
While other books offer the necessary theological and practical foundation for growth, this book builds on that foundation to help you make definitive plans for maturity. Don’t stay stuck in your walk with God. Form an actionable plan and make real progress toward maturity.
Three Sections of the Book
What follows is the three-part outline of Your Spiritual Formation Plan in three parts. I include checkboxes throughout the workbook to help you track your progress on the journey. For each chapter, you will take specific steps.
Part 1, “Your Initial Spiritual Formation Plan,” jumpstarts your journey with the most important task of the whole workbook: crafting your Rule of Life. It also guides you to determine your greatest desire and your most pressing challenges right now.
Part 2, “Your Next Steps in the Disciplines,” introduces the disciplines, encourages you to take the 21-Day Challenge, and helps you formulate initial plans for ten core disciplines.
Part 3, “Your Next Season of Spiritual Formation,” helps you build on your plan from the first two parts and apply your foundation toward a long-term approach to spiritual formation.
Allow this workbook to push you, but if push comes to shove, pause and evaluate your pace. I’ve seen how easily people get overwhelmed as they form their plan, so remember that at any point, you can pause, go backwards, speed up, or do whatever you need to do in order to complete this workbook successfully.
God’s grace abounds, and his grace is the air we breathe as we walk along the Way.
So press on with the confidence that God leads disciples of Jesus in and through his abounding grace.
The Full Book Outline
How to Use This BookPART 1: Your Initial Spiritual Formation Plan
1. Introducing the Rule of Life
2. Crafting Your Rule of Life
3. Identifying Your Greatest Desire
4. Identifying Your Greatest Barriers
PART 2: Your Next Steps in the Disciplines
5. Introducing the Disciplines
6. The 21-Day Challenge
10. Reading Scripture
17. Refining Your Rule of Life
PART 3: Your Next Season of Spiritual Formation
18. A Seasonal Approach to Spiritual Formation
19. Planning Your Next Season
Appendix A: Rule of Life ExamplesAppendix B: How to Do a Book Study
Appendix C: Key Scripture Verses for Memorization
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How to Use Your Spiritual Formation Plan
I wrote this workbook as a stand-alone resource for individuals and entire churches. It pairs well with a free video course.
Individuals. Individuals can use this workbook on their own to establish their initial formation plan focused on the Rule of Life and ten core disciplines.
Church Leaders. Church leaders can use this as a disciple-making resource to equip their leaders to guide their entire church into disciple-making practices.
With a Free Video Course.
This workbook was written to go alongside his Spiritual Formation Video Course.
HIM Publications recorded and released the class I originally taught that goes with this workbook. It’s now available as a video course called Spiritual Formation.
So while this workbook can serve as a stand-alone resource, it’s not a complete guide to spiritual formation. I’ve written it with the assumption that you’ll use other resources as well: my video course and Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ.
So here‘s the best way to get started: