Book Review: Spiritual Direction
Author: Gordon T. Smith
Publisher: InterVarsity Press ISBN: 9780830835799
When I first received information about this title being published this past winter, I was excited and eagerly looked forward to the day I would be able to read the book myself. Well, the day has come and I’ve read Spiritual Direction by Gordon Smith, and it was exactly what I had hoped for and then some.
A few things off the top that I really liked follow:
(1) It is an “everyman’s” read. It’s not bogged down with academic or mysterious language. I think it is easily accessible to anyone who wants to take the time to read it.
(2) The book is concise without sacrificing content. Gordon Smith uses just the amount of words to make a point and then he moves on to the next point. This is sufficient to answer readers’ questions and hold their interest as he moves from chapter to chapter.
(3) I appreciate that this book will create a common language or a baseline of sorts with people who are unfamiliar with the practice and ministry of spiritual direction. Smith has removed some of the mystery from the practice of spiritual direction and may open conversation to those who have previously been wary and/or close-minded to this ancient practice.
As I stated previously, the book is concise and weighs in just under one-hundred pages including endnotes and recommended reading resources. Smith has used nine chapters to present his material. He uses the first five chapters to unpack what spiritual direction is. He discusses spiritual direction as ministry (chapter one), the theological perspectives (chapter two), the nature of the conversation in spiritual direction (chapter three), the inclusion of attentiveness toward the direction meeting in our prayers (chapter four), and a description (mock) of a spiritual direction session (chapter five).
The second half of the book (chapters six through nine), Smith addresses the personal aspects and relational nature of the spiritual direction meeting. Beginning in chapter six, he makes an important distinction that spiritual direction is not equivalent, nor is it a platform, for teaching, preaching, counseling, or pastoral care (pp 70-71). Chapters seven and eight respectively define the qualities and character of the spiritual director and the same for a directee. Smith finishes the book with chapter nine and an emphatic reminder that the real Spiritual Director in the meeting between a director and directee is the Holy Spirit.
There are some who might consider this book a bit remedial or lacking in details. If you’re looking for a textbook or a resource deep in the arcane works of spiritual direction, this is not that book. If you’re like me, and looking for a resource that can help you describe your ministry to those who look upon you with curiosity and doubt…this book might be your best friend. If you’ve heard of spiritual direction and wondered what it really is and what it really means??? Stop looking and buy this book now. I know I will be referring and recommending Gordon Smith’s Spiritual Direction to many, many of my friends and students.
I am grateful to IVP and Gordon Smith for a wonderful, needful, and sure-to-be-helpful resource!