Spiritual Formation

We experience God as embodied human beings. This experience includes our minds, what we know, and also our emotions, will, personality, and body. God wants to transform all of who we are. We believe to be formed by the Holy Spirit in this way requires both participation and intentionality. That’s why we’ve thoughtfully built out spaces, practices, and courses – no matter what program you pursue with us – that invite you on a spiritual formation journey in community.

What is Spiritual Formation?

person walks alone outside to a red church

Christian spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ for the glory of God and for the sake of others (II Corinthians 3:17-18).

The focus of spiritual formation is the Holy Spirit, who guides the ongoing journey towards union with God.

The response is submission. Formation is an organic, lifelong, and holistic process involving right thinking (orthodoxy), right behaviors (orthopraxy), and right feelings (orthopathy) of individuals and communities.

Is Spiritual Formation Biblical?

Terms Defined

You’ve probably heard terms like “spiritual direction”, “discipleship” and “spiritual formation” used in conversation, mentioned on a website, or spoken of from the pulpit. But what, exactly, do these things mean?

Here is a general overview of how we, at Portland Seminary, define them:

  • Spiritual direction is a relationship between a person seeking a more Christ-like life and another who serves as a listening companion to the journey of growing deeper in their relationship with God. The soul companion is trained as a spiritual director.
  • Spiritual formation focuses on the deepening of one's relationship with God.
  • Discipleship focuses on the maturing of one's faith in the context of the particular beliefs and values of a faith community. Disciplers are respected and spiritually mature mentors and leaders in a faith community.
  • Pastoral counseling focuses on relational and emotional maturity of an individual and/or family group. It is usually crisis-driven. Pastoral counselors are trained and certified.

How Do I Know if I’m Being
Spiritually Formed?

Two student sit on stairs outside and contemplate the bible

That is a great question! We believe the Spirit and the written Word, and the living indwelling Christ, help us to experience “living water,” which flows out of our innermost being (John 7:37-38), coming from the depths of our identities and our communities.

Spiritual disciplines are the tools and pathways of spiritual formation. Practices such as labyrinth walking, contemplative prayer and Lectio Divina – the traditional monastic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer – are good, but they do not necessarily result in formation. Only the Spirit can bring about spiritual formation and our invitation is to consent to the journey.

At Portland Seminary, we’re receptive to the Spirit’s formative work in us while recognizing that formation happens best in diverse communities. Spiritual directors, mentors, pastors and spiritual friends provide important relationships for reflection, companionship and sometimes guidance.

Ultimately, the best gift from these special relationships is the act of their listening deeply to us and on our behalf with the Spirit.

Spiritual Formation at Portland Seminary

We’re committed to your spiritual formation because we believe the church and the world are better served by women and men who have a receptive heart and are faithfully responding to the Spirit’s working in their lives.

Educating the mind is not enough. As embodied persons with a mind, will, personality and emotions, God wants to transform all of who we are.

We journey together in these ways:

Watch video: Spiritual Formation at Portland Seminary

Spiritual Formation Programs

Whether you come to Portland Seminary seeking a master's degree, a doctorate or to simply grow in your faith, we offer the following programs designed to help you deepen your spiritual formation commitment.

two women read a book outside together

Courses with a Spiritual Formation Emphasis

Who are you? How do you view God and how is the Spirit working in your life? How do you engage like Christ those around you?

Pretty deep questions. But they are the kinds of questions we love to tackle! And they are the queries we discuss in our classes that have a strong spiritual formation component. Among them:

  • Self-in-Connection with the Triune God
  • The Life of Prayer in the Christian Tradition
  • Restorative Justice and the Shalom of God
  • Wholeness and Healing in Christian Ministry
  • Sacred Stories of Formation
  • History of Spirituality and Renewal
  • Loss and Life: Spiritual Practices and Generative Perspectives
  • Listening and Discernment

Be sure to ask seminaries:

How do you weave spiritual formation for students into your programs?

Note: Portions of this page are excerpted from an article written by Portland Seminary professor MaryKate Morse.