The Art of Spiritual Guidance

I have been sharing a series with our staff on spiritual formation. At our staff meeting this week, I spoke about spiritual guidance or spiritual direction. This is a lost art in contemporary evangelicalism. The role of pastor can be spiritual direction in a sense. But classically, spiritual guidance happens in a one on one setting. Spiritual direction is not about Biblical information but about heart transformation. I encouraged our staff to both avail themselves to spiritual guidance as a receiver and as a giver. To seek a mentor and to be a mentor. When I got to ‘be a mentor’ time, I shared six simple principles for the art of spiritual guidance. One of our pastors jotted down some notes about it and then forwarded it to me. So here they are. Obviously this is not exhaustive by any means but it is practical and helpful. Definitely not the final word on the subject but some important ideas just the same.

1) Focus on Gods kingdom and design instead my plans for that person.
What is God’s will for this person? How has he designed them? How
can I help them down that road?

2) Keep your advice founded in the Bible. From the Book outward instead
of the opposite of that. Most of the issues with historical and contemporary spiritual guidance comes when it is divorced from the heart of God in the Word of God.

3) Founded on care and concern. Love them with the concern of Christ. Care and concern will always (with the exception of intercessory prayer) translate into time spent together. So you must figure out how to make time for that person.

4) Have a listening ear. Eugene Peterson said, “Show up an then shut up.”
Let people express their hearts. Where they are at. Do not jump in. Wait
and see where they are coming from before you put in your .02. Give
them an opportunity to express themselves. Then pick your words wisely and
choose carefully what you are going to say.

5) Be humble. The people who walk with the Lord the longest and the
closest recognize their neediness for God the most. Lead with
humility not pride. When you are addressing them, do not forget that you have a plank in your own eye!

6) Lead with the premise that you are going to reproduce yourself
, whether good or bad. It is a great responsibility. Is our
own walk where we want it to be? People we disciple will take on many
of our characteristics. Things we do and say will show up in their
lives because we are encouraging them to walk down the road with us.

8 replies
  1. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Good stuff, Daniel. #1 has always been a conundrum for me as a pastor. If I hire someone to help at the church, I don’t necessarily have God’s future will for them in mind, I have mine and the church’s present needs in mind. It is a balancing act to think of them in light of the church’s present needs and also in light of the design of God for them. It is a common tension that someone is hired to do X, but then they develop a desire for Y. Y may very well be God’s will for their lives, but then you still have X that needs to be done and people who need to be served. Is a pastor’s first responsibility the development of the staff person or meeting the needs of the church? How would and other readers advise in this situation?

  2. Daniel Fusco
    Daniel Fusco says:

    I definitely understand the conundrum. I would say that a pastor’s job is to disciple people into God’s will for their life. So I would place God’s design above what they were hired for. But it can be hard for sure.

    • Miles DeBenedictis
      Miles DeBenedictis says:

      Wouldn’t you agree, however, that there are times when hired individuals developed desire for Y is not necessarily God’s will but there’s?

      As an example, I’ve witnessed a number of individuals who are gifted at leading others in worship, but after a period of time doing so they get an itch to preach vs. lead worship. We can’t necessarily hold an individual’s desire for Y as the same as God’s calling. Although I am a firm believer that God does lead us by imparting/implanting new desires, I also think that such desires need to be tempered by submission to leadership?


  3. Daniel Fusco
    Daniel Fusco says:

    I would absolutely agree that spiritual guidance is not letting everyone do whatever they want. But if we place God’s will in their lives above our ‘loss’ of a key player in the ministry then God’s will can be done.

    For so many people, a pastor is more focused on what he is losing rather than what God is doing.

    Sure there are people who think they are called to something and are not. But there are also a lot of people who are called to things that pastors discourage out of selfishness or ego.

  4. Tim Brown
    Tim Brown says:

    Daniel, you wrote: I would say that a pastor’s job is to disciple people into God’s will for their life.

    This could mean discipling them out of a position at the church because the church still has a need for X and I, as the pastor, still need X to be done. I agree with the interchange that you and Miles had. It’s tough. I know one assistant pastor who is afraid to tell the senior pastor that he desires to plant a church because the senior will give him a month or so to get out of there. My bottom line would be that Assistant A can still do X while he is discipled to do Y until Assistant B comes along to X which will release Assistant A to do Y. C?

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