Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered

Growing in Christ through Community

Cover Art Request Exam Copy

Where to Purchase

More Options


"A refreshing blend of theological acumen, educational expertise, and pastoral sensitivity. . . . Wilhoit's writing is crisp, his arguments are clear, and his insights are profound. . . . [This book] deserves to be widely read, discussed, and appropriated into the life of the church."--Barry D. Jones, Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care

Spiritual formation is undoubtedly a timely and popular topic in our materialistic culture. Plenty of high-quality books have been published, including the works of Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Yet most of these resources focus on the individual. James Wilhoit leads readers in a new direction by focusing on the impact that Christian community can have on spiritual development in Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered. Also unique to this treatment is its historical and ecumenical approach. Perhaps the most important metaphor throughout the text is that of a journey. Spiritual progress is not a destination; instead, it is a continuous process. Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered offers an introduction to spiritual formation set squarely in the local church. As such it is appropriate for professors and students (both undergraduate and graduate) but it is also helpful for church leaders and spirituality readers. Features that enhance this work include its brief chapters, sidebar content, and for further reading annotations.


"James Wilhoit has written a book of special urgency for our times. In it he addresses the central problem facing the contemporary church in the Western world and worldwide, the problem of how to routinely lead its members through a path of spiritual, moral, and personal transformation that brings them into authentic Christlikeness in every aspect of their lives. . . . Dr. Wilhoit, with a warm heart and a gentle and intelligent manner, helps us see, in great detail, what we can do to relocate spiritual transformation at the center of what we do in gathering as disciples of Jesus. He helps any serious person engage the project from where they are, discover what really works for Christlikeness and what doesn't, and assess outcomes realistically to make needed adjustments as they go."--Dallas Willard (from the foreword)

"James Wilhoit presents an exciting paradigm for spiritual transformation in the community of faith--God's setting for transformation. It is a seminal work that I trust will be taken seriously."--Larry Richards, distinguished educator, North American Professors of Christian Education, and author of Creative Bible Teaching

"Theologically grounded, educationally sound, and gracious in tone, Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered is a robust response to Dallas Willard's challenge to the church to give greater attention to congregation-wide spiritual formation. Pastors and church teachers will appreciate this rich resource--well versed in the spiritual formation literature, with its summaries, stories, and practical steps--to guide and discern growth toward Christlikeness."--Klaus Issler, author of Wasting Time with God: A Christian Spirituality of Friendship with God

"From the first stunning sentence in Wilhoit's book--'Spiritual formation is the task of the church'--to the last sentence of the book--'We belong together in our Father's home'--I was hooked. Wilhoit captures the journey and struggle of spiritual growth through the life and invitations of Jesus Christ. The breadth of biblical images used to describe transformation reveals the limits of quick-fix models and one-size-fits-all programmatics. Wilhoit offers a means for the church to provide an accessible pathway for growth in the ordinary events, relationships, and brokenness of our lives. This lovely work nourished my heart, instructed my mind, and opened my spirit to the Spirit of Christ."--Adele Calhoun, pastor of spiritual formation, Christ Church of Oak Brook, IL

"Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered is the mature fruit of a devout scholar. Here Jim Wilhoit weaves theory, passion, and practice together into a rich re-presentation of the gospel for the local church. He takes the discussion about spiritual formation an important step forward, shifting the emphasis from private pursuit to corporate culture. Sensitive to the seldom-noticed dangers along the path of growth toward Christlikeness, this book is loaded with wisdom for those who desire to facilitate communities of formation. Wilhoit's insights regarding anointed teaching, public testimony, the enlarging cross, and mutual confession are alone worth the price of the book."--Evan Howard, author of The Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality

The Author

  1. James C. Wilhoit

    James C. Wilhoit

    James C. Wilhoit (PhD, Northwestern University) is Professor Emeritus of Core Studies and Scripture Press Chair of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, where he taught for over thirty years. He has authored numerous books,...

    Continue reading about James C. Wilhoit


"The title of this tightly woven, consistently challenging meditation on Christian spiritual formation serves notice that this book is going to be more than another self-help manual. . . . [Wilhoit's] 'four pillars of formation' include receiving, or being open to God's grace; remembering, or understanding who we are and why we were created; responding in service to neighbors and the world; and building relationships in the context of community. In alternating chapters, Wilhoit gives readers theological and biblical foundations for each principle, then suggests a set of practices. . . . This skilled writer uses many pedagogical tools to keep his audience focused. Clearly written from an evangelical perspective, this cogent and passionate book deserves to have wide appeal."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Here, this thoughtful educator and scholar . . . shows how inner transformation, spiritual formation and deep discipleship happens in the context of community in the local congregation. . . . Very thoughtful and passionate, filling a huge need for how to really arrange our church life for Christlikeness."--Byron Borger, heartsandmindsbooks.com

"[Wilhoit] pens a deep and wide primer on what he argues is the task of the Christian church. He begins each chapter quoting scripture and experts to set the scene or to get the reader thinking. . . . Wilhoit bolsters his own discussion by supplementing each chapter with relevant extracts of other works and further reading lists that include both recent and classic titles. This book belongs in every seminary, on every clergyperson's shelf, and in any library supporting a community of inquiring Christians."--Eric Norton, Library Journal

"James Wilhoit has presented the church with a gift. My first impression was how thorough was his research, especially the many graphs, charts, and lists. This speaks to the great care he took with his meticulous mind to assemble the work. . . . I commend Dr. Wilhoit for leading us . . . to the fulfillment we can find in living for others, or as he puts it, community. . . . Wilhoit presents church leaders with a detailed survey or checklist. If church leadership would spend the time to answer the questions and provide a means to reach the resultant goals, it could be revolutionary. . . . There is much to praise about the book, I hope it becomes a standard read in classrooms and in church boardrooms. I know I will place it on the shelf in that special place where it can be easily found."--Bill Hull, Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care

"It will come as no surprise that my heart as a pastor resonates with this book and that I highly recommend it. . . . This book had to be written, and Wilhoit was the right one to write it. . . . Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered is a starting point to get us to move in the right direction. . . . It is a joy to read James Wilhoit. Very early in the book it becomes clear he is personally immersed in Scripture--not because he is supposed to be--but because he enjoys the Word of God. The author has an obvious love for the church. . . . As we read this book, we sense we are in the hands of a perceptive spiritual director, a man we sense we can trust with the inner workings of our souls. Do not be surprised if some of Wilhoit's spiritual insights jump off the page and into your heart. . . . The book argues persuasively that we really do need to attend to spiritual practices together on the journey as the church."--Bill Johnson, Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care

"As the subject of spiritual formation becomes more prominent, we find ourselves in need of wise guides. . . . James Wilhoit has proven himself to be just such a guide. He has written a much needed book that provides an accessible orientation to this enormously important topic and overcomes the tendency toward privatization that plagues too much of the contemporary literature on spiritual formation. He offers a compelling vision of growth that . . . is nurtured and sustained by the common life of the church. Wilhoit's book demonstrates a refreshing blend of theological acumen, educational expertise, and pastoral sensitivity. . . . The great strength of Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered lies in the fact that it clearly and compellingly corrects three fundamental deficiencies that often characterize contemporary conceptions of spiritual formation. . . . The importance of community for spiritual formation is one of the most vital and resounding themes of the book. . . . Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered contains a significant amount of helpful supplemental material that adds value to what is already a substantial book. . . . Wilhoit's writing is crisp, his arguments are clear, and his insights are profound. This book offers timely advice for engaging in the task of the church. Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered deserves to be widely read, discussed, and appropriated into the life of the church."--Barry D. Jones, Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care

"The author's holistic approach to spiritual formation, his focus on a well-developed hamartiology and the importance of community, are important aspects of the text that distinguish it from many other works on formative spirituality that do not develop these ideas as carefully or in as much detail. . . . Although written with practical application in mind, the text does not neglect careful analysis, discussion and explanation of the more academic yet essential aspects of spiritual formation. At the conclusion of each chapter, the bibliographic entries . . . provide additional pertinent resources for the research scholar as well as those ecclesial leaders seeking further study in spiritual theology and practical applications for the formative process. The theological soundness and practical applicability of the text's carefully developed thesis and themes; the well-designed graphic illustrations, which provide excellent visual representations of concepts in spiritual theology, underline the book's significant value for use in pastoral staff training, Christian formation classes in church settings and also for use in seminary contexts."--Mara Lief Crabtree, Pneuma Review