By: Diane LeClerc & Mark A. Maddix
Publisher: Beacon Hill Press ISBN: 9780834126138
I wish I could say I’m surprised this book hasn’t gained more traction than it has, but I’m not… and that’s a shame because this contribution of essays from Leclerc and Maddix is a treasure trove of insight, tradition, and wisdom for those who aspire to become formed more fully in the image of Jesus Christ.
Classic spiritual formation is something that has been largely abandoned by the Protestant Evangelical church, although there seems to be something of an awakening interest to this tradition in recent years. It is for this reason I am greatly encouraged by the work done in this book from Leclerc and Maddix and most especially for the reason that it is written from a Wesleyan perspective.
Regarding a review of this book, I really do not know where to begin, every chapter and every page is chock full of goodness. The book is comprised of twenty chapters (essays) from various contributors and I have over twenty-six “sticky-bookmarks” spaced throughout those twenty essays… lots of very good, insightful, encouraging, challenging, and practical tools helpful in establishing specific disciplines to aid individuals and groups in their spiritual transformation.
It is difficult for me to say what part or parts of the book I enjoyed the most…there really were so many. I do have to admit that the treatment given to “entire sanctification” by Diane Leclerc (pp.59-63) is some of the most readable and practical writing on the topic I have seen in recent years. By this, I do not mean exhaustive or comprehensive, but it is succinct and down-to-earth in explanation. That alone, is high praise when discussing views like entire sanctification or “Christian perfection.” I think Thomas Jay Oord adds to the same conversation with his essay from chapter seven also speaking to the notion of Christian perfection, loving God and loving neighbor. There is some really good reading in these two essays in particular. Brent Peterson has a wonderful treatment in his chapter dedicated to communal worship and the sacraments. I loved the attention he paid to the Eucharist and Baptism (pp102-105).
Other notable chapters for me were chapter eleven, Breathing Faith-Christian Prayer and Contemplation, wonderfully well-rounded and diverse attention to prayer by Gary Waller in this essay! Rhonda Carrim in chapter fifteen, Walking the Journey Together-Spiritual Direction and Mentoring, helps the reader slog through the morass of semantic confusion we’ve created in our “us versus them” discussions in her essay regarding discipleship, mentoring, and spiritual direction.
As a pastor in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition and a person who has been studying the ancient and classic traditions of spiritual formation, I am grateful for the help this book provides me with a common language to share with my peers. Personally, I’ve struggled with sharing ideas about the ancient traditions of the Christian faith because so many of those traditions were established pre-reformation and much of the teaching and writing are from authors rooted in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Sadly, for that reason alone, much of the conversation regarding spiritual formation in the circles I have traveled stops at that point, largely because of ignorance and unfair biases. This is why I’m so excited to have been made aware of this book; I think it will be a great asset for me going forward assisting me as I share these great spiritual formation tools in a language that is common to my own tradition and helpful making connections where people might have thought there were none in the Wesleyan paradigm.
Very Highly Recommended.