Date of Award
Doctor of Ministry (DMin)
The purpose of this dissertation is to foster a commitment to the development of spiritual direction in the ongoing care of pastors within the Protestant tradition. The need to recover this practice, once well established in the church, is made obvious by the increasing challenges faced in ministry and the spiritual and emotional impact now experienced by pastors. More and more leaders are losing their way as a result of the unchecked stress fostered by the overwhelming expectations, whether real or perceived, which are placed on them. Pastoral responsibilities have been significantly compounded by the increasing programmatic and executive functions which now dominate the job description. Many pastors are unable to sustain the challenges currently faced in the complicated task of overseeing a church. For this reason, the ministry of spiritual direction - providing a "soul friend" to assist pastors through the spiritual and emotional issues of life - must be reintroduced. The content of this dissertation points toward this end by providing a thorough explanation of the ministry of spiritual direction and fostering a vision for this type of support among pastors within the Protestant, and particularly evangelical1 , tradition. It is my hope that this work will inspire pastors to seek out a spiritual director and place themselves under his or her care. If more of these leaders pursue this practice of being directed, they will, in turn, consider the possibility of becoming spiritual guides to other pastors. Additionally, I trust this study will persuade denominational leaders to initiate and develop the practice of spiritual direction with a view to nurturing those who are in ministry. To further these purposes, I will use the teaching of St. Ignatius, author of The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who stands out as a primary influencer in the development of spiritual direction for the past 500 years. In chapter two, I will establish a rationale for the ministry of spiritual direction in the lives of pastors. This will be developed by observing the unique challenges faced by leaders in ministry, and highlighting how spiritual direction is particularly designed to provide support amid these difficulties. The rationale will be strengthened by highlighting the historical background for spiritual direction ending with one final, and disappointing observation - spiritual direction has, for the most part, been lost in the Protestant tradition. In chapter three, I will focus on the biblical literature that provides a scriptural foundation for the ministry of spiritual direction. The Trinitarian nature of God will be studied with a view to its direct implications on the relational ministry of spiritual direction. With this as a foundation, the example of Jesus and Paul, who modeled the basic principles of spiritual direction, will be considered as examples for all who follow. In chapter four, I will provide an introduction to St. Ignatius and how he developed his model of spiritual direction in the Spiritual Exercises. The lgnatian model of spiritual formation has shaped every priest in the Jesuit movement from the time the order was birthed until the present. Ignatius offers us a living example of how spiritual direction can, and should, play a significant role in the life of the leader. Much of what is taught and practiced today has its roots in the work of Ignatius and the principles he developed. 3 In chapters five and six, I will analyze dominant themes in lgnatian spirituality. Chapter five will highlight six features which represent his philosophy of spiritual formation; they are critical pathways toward effective spiritual direction and the maturation of sincere Christ-followers. Chapter six continues in this vein by addressing one final and fundamental theme in the lgnatian model. I will seek to explain the importance of spiritual discernment when working with others. This theme warrants unique attention because of its foundational influence evident throughout Ignatius' work. In chapter seven, I will turn to the practice of spiritual direction within the framework of contemporary writings, and endeavor to illuminate the principles that should guide a spiritual director in light of what has been learned thus far. Listening to the Spirit of God, as well as focusing on the directee's view of God and self, is central to effective direction. In chapter eight, I will provide a conclusion to this work by offering numerous practical recommendations and steps whereby pastors and denominational leaders can reestablish the practice of spiritual direction in their own lives and the lives of those under their influence. This chapter will offer a strategy to address the problem that prompts this dissertation. Applying these recommendations will, I trust, provide some forward movement toward the rediscovery of spiritual direction as a pathway whereby today's pastor can maintain a healthy walk with God and a fruitful ministry to others. The words of David Benner, a leader in this move toward rediscovery, set the stage for what will follow in this dissertation: In recent years the church has been tragically marginalized as a provider of soul care ... If the church is to be restored to its rightful place of relevance to and preeminence in supporting the care and cure of souls, we must equip and encourage people to offer themselves to others in relationships of soul friendship and spiritual companionship. 2
Dirks, Morris, "Recovering Spiritual Direction in the Protestant Tradition" (2007). Doctor of Ministry. 614.