Spiritual Direction: a book review

One of my favorite teachers on Christian spirituality is Gordon Smith. I have been privileged to take classes from him at Regent college in the sacraments and conversion & spiritual transformation. I have also read several books by him on the spiritual lives. These books and classes have helped shape my vision of Christian formation and spirituality. Because of this, I pretty much put anything Gordon Smith writes on my must read pile. So when I saw that IVP put out a book by Gordon Smith on Spiritual Direction I knew I had to read it!

Spiritual Direction: A Guide to Giving & Receiving Direction gives Smith’s thoughts on Spiritual Direction. Smith, who is currently the president of Ambrose University College and Seminary in Calgary Alberta, got his PhD from Loyola School of Theology and sat under the spiritual direction of Thomas Green. As such, his model of Spiritual Formation is deeply influenced by the Jesuits, though he finds his theological home among evangelicals. This book shares his wisdom and particular understanding of what Spiritual Direction is.

Smith’s nine chapters articulate the nature of spiritual direction. Chapter one describes spiritual direction as an individualized relationship with a director who intentionally helps you pay attention to where God is at work in your life. Smith doesn’t shy away from the language of spiritual direction though some prefer the language of companionship or friendship, because direction implies intentionality and purpose. Chapter two grounds spiritual in direction in a theology of the triune God, an understanding of the religious experience and the  affections and the particularity of each person. Chapter three describes the nature of spiritual direction as a ‘focused conversation.’ Chapter four focuses on the importance of prayer to spiritual direction. Chapter five details the format of a spiritual direction session. Chapter six describes how spiritual direction can inform pastoral ministry, evangelism and friendship. Chapter seven examines the qualities of a spiritual director while chapter eight looks at the qualities of the directee. The final chapter explores the importance of the Holy Spirit to spiritual direction–as the only one true director.

My experience of spiritual direction is positive, if rather limited. I have read several books on spiritual direction and briefly had a regular director while in seminary. I also have been blessed to have several significant conversations with spiritual directors which have helped me make sense of my spiritual life, and sense of call.  Smith’s book is a fitting introduction to those who are new to the realm of spiritual direction and full of practical insight for finding a good director. I give this book four stars and highly recommend it for those who are curious about spiritual direction (especially my fellow evangelicals).

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