The Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality

Last week, Southeastern Seminary announced the launch of our new Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality. This initiative has been about nine months in the making. I serve as the Center’s new director. The Center desires to help foster a community at Southeastern Seminary that is characterized by a Word-driven, gospel-centered, mission-minded piety that conforms our character to the image of Jesus Christ and advances spiritual flourishing under his lordship. We also hope to serve as a resource to Southern Baptist and other evangelical churches on topics such as spiritual formation, spiritual disciplines, spirituality, discipleship, etc.

If you haven’t read the press release, check it out on the SEBTS website. Also, please take a look at the Center’s website, which includes a welcome from me, an explanation of our mission and purpose, a list of our Fellows and members of our Pastoral Advisory Board, and some resources (mostly books and websites) related to some of the topics that our Center hopes to engage. I hope to update the website more in the coming months. I also look forward to announcing the Center’s first event in a few days.

I have included my welcome from the Center’s website below. I hope you will read it, check out all the information on our website, and be on the lookout for upcoming events.

—————————-

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:9–10, ESV)

At Southeastern Seminary, we believe one of the great needs among this generation of Baptists and other evangelicals is a healthy approach to spiritual formation and Christian spirituality. To that end, The mission of the Center is to promote spiritual maturity and the cultivation of a robust evangelical spirituality for the glory of God, the health of the church and the advancement of Christian mission.

The Center is concerned with a number of key questions facing Christian leaders: What does it mean to be a mature follower of Jesus Christ? How best can pastors and other leaders equip Christians to grow in their spiritual lives? What spiritual disciplines and other practices best aid us in our spiritual maturity? What is the relationship between spirituality, theology, and mission? What are some of the best resources available to pastors and other ministry leaders who are interested in spiritual formation, spirituality, discipleship, and related topics?

I want to invite you to take a look around this website and learn about some of the ways the Center is trying to fulfill its purpose and answer these important questions. I’m hopeful The Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality will help us to form Southeastern students (and others) into mature disciples and equip them to lead their local churches and other ministries in cultivating a discipleship culture that glorifies God and advances his kingdom.

Thanks for your interest in The Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality. Pray for us and let us know how we can best partner with you in your own ministry.

Nathan A. Finn
Director, The Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

 

Sanctification is a Community Project

Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25, HCSB)

Early on in my Christian experience, I underestimated the degree to which sanctification is a community project. When I was a young Christian, I was convinced that vibrant spirituality was maintaining a regular daily devotional time of Bible reading and prayer, sharing my faith with others on a regular basis and reading lots of edifying extra-biblical books (I’ve always been pretty bookish). These disciplines sustained me, and by God’s grace, I grew as a follower of Christ. But these disciplines are all “personal” practices that can be pursued apart from the context of one’s local church. At least they were often detached in my experience, especially during my college days.

For the first four years of my Christian life, I operated in some respects like an independent spiritual contractor who happened to be a member–and frequently a paid staff member–of a local congregation. But the longer I’ve been a Christian, the more I’ve come to realize that sanctification is a community project. While I continue to maintain all the personal spiritual disciplines of my early Christian life, I now recognize that they are best practiced in conjunction with like-minded believers with whom I have covenanted with in my local church. In addition to personal disciplines, meaningful church membership by definition includes several corporate spiritual disciplines: small group fellowship, corporate worship, accountability relationships, even members meetings. I sincerely believe that I love the Lord more now than I once did, in part because I love his bride more than I once did. Sanctification is a community project.

Small Group 2010-2011

Finn Home Fellowship Group Picture from May 2011

At First Baptist Church of Durham, we have small groups that meet on Sunday nights in homes all over the greater Raleigh-Durham area. We call these small groups home fellowships. On several occasions since 2005, my family has hosted a home fellowship at our house (check out the pic above from our 2010-2011 home fellowship). Over the years, the vast majority of the families in these small groups have had ties to Southeastern Seminary as students, professors or staff (we live less than five minutes from the seminary). When we host a home fellowship, we tell everyone that we gather weekly with intentionality: we eat together, share together, pray together and studythe Scriptures together. And the reason why we pursue these spiritual activities together in that setting? Sanctification is a community project. This is especially true in Baptist churches, where every member is a professing believer and the entire congregation takes ownership of the church’s ministry.

Over the years, God has used our home fellowships, as well as the entire congregation of saints called FBC Durham, as a means of sanctifying grace in my life. I have no doubt that I have grown to love God more, love our church more and love lost people more in large part because of the way I’ve walked with the brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I’ve covenanted at FBC Durham. My wife would say the same thing. In healthy churches and church-based small groups, believers help each other to “promote love and good works” and point one another to the riches of the gospel, especially in times of doubt and need. The members are stronger in their faith because of their participation in the body. This is the way it’s meant to be. Sanctification is a community project.

(Note: An earlier version post was published in September 2013 at Christian Thought and Tradition, but it has been substantially revised for Between the Times)