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Soul Guide

Soul Guide

by Bruce Demarest

Bruce Demarest provides biblically based and practical information on life and soul guidance using the example of Jesus Christ as our Spiritual Director.

This book will help you:

• Find guidance and direction from the teachings of Jesus, Martin Luther, Teresa of Avila, C. S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, and more
• Learn how to wait on God


Bruce Demarest provides biblically based and practical information on life and soul guidance using the example of Jesus Christ as our Spiritual Director.

This book will help you:

• Find guidance and direction from the teachings of Jesus, Martin Luther, Teresa of Avila, C. S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, and more
• Learn how to wait on God
• Deal with confusion, fear, and betrayal
• Discover God’s perspective on busyness and guilt
• Restore your lost passion for life

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Commonly associated with monastic orders and the mystical practices of Roman Catholic saints, the discipline of spiritual direction is one that conservative Protestants have approached with caution and caveats. That may be changing. Well known in evangelical circles, Demarest, a popular author and professor at Denver Seminary, argues that spiritual counselors and "soul friends" are indeed part of God's plan for the converted Christian. Although comfortable referring to classic spiritual authorities like Teresa of Avila and the Desert Fathers (and Mothers), Demarest believes that "soul-care"-relationships between experienced Christians and those seeking guidance in faith-are driven by the believer's fundamental need to imitate Christ's life and character. "In Jesus Christ, then, we find the pattern of spiritual guidance and the qualities of the ideal spiritual director," he writes. At the heart of the book is a group of meditations on various Gospel passages; Demarest uses an event in the life of Jesus Christ to draw some conclusions about his character and relationships. One of a series of books on spiritual formation offered by NavPress, this volume offers readers application questions at the end of each chapter. The author's focus on Jesus as principal spiritual mentor should allay conservatives' concerns about extra-biblical eclecticism, and his balanced and straightforward style should also give this volume wide appeal. One minor gripe: in a book that avoids any controversy over gender roles, the occasional use of the word "man" instead of "humanity" is jarring. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
0.48(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

soul guide

Following Jesus As Spiritual Director
By Bruce Demarest


Copyright © 2003 Bruce Demarest
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-57683-286-4

Chapter One

Jesus, Our Model

Throughout the centuries, ministries of spiritual guidance have been a gift of grace for the people of God. Unfortunately, in some quarters of the church today, the true ministry of spiritual guidance -or spiritual direction, as it has long been known-remains an enigma. Many believers are left struggling with a serious question: How do we live in nourishing communion with an invisible and holy God who is, nonetheless, "with us"? This is a great and often painful mystery for many Christians, as are the questions about living in peaceful community with other people.

Loving God and loving others were indeed Jesus' two most important spiritual directives to us (see Mark 12:29-31). As it happens, these are also the toughest to keep. Who will help us understand how to live in ways that help us grow in spiritual maturity as we seek to fulfill these, our Lord's great commands? Sadly, for many Christians, following the Way of Jesus Christ means little more than weekly church attendance and renewed resolutions at moral living. They experience little in the way of real, individual direction. They feel their souls are not being cared for.

As a result, many Christians today are seeking spiritual direction, and in various ways.

Disciples in Search of Direction

Jerry has been a pastor for many years. In the beginning, his ministry felt alive and exciting, and the two churches in which he served both grew. Eventually, though, Jerry became aware that something was absent: He lacked passion for his work. In a short time, he felt drained. Not only was he faltering in his vocation, his relationship with his wife and children became burdensome. He found himself lashing out impatiently at home or withdrawing completely, and feeling ashamed either way.

In his eleventh year of ministry, a sense of anguish, almost despair, had taken hold in Jerry. Any sense of enthusiasm or God's presence was gone. He realized that he hated his work... hated his life. Quiet desperation tortured him for months, until he confided his torment to a friend.

At the friend's suggestion, Jerry took a week out of his schedule to visit a retreat center, where he spent time with a spiritual director. The term spiritual director was new to Jerry, and at first he was wary. But what he found as he relaxed and opened up was the beginning of substantial healing and renewal.

Mainly, the spiritual director provided godly perspective, listening intently for long periods of time to Jerry's expressions of anguish and to his questions. He asked many questions as well, about Jerry's life, his experiences, his ways of connecting with God-and also about the things that made Jerry feel disconnected from God. Jerry found himself opening up, taking the long view of his own life, and also confiding secrets, doubts, pains, and disappointments he'd never really spoken of to anyone, ever. As the week progressed, the director continually helped Jerry to make sense of great patterns in his life-which he'd never seen before-and to understand them as the great, long outworkings of God's themes and plans for his entire existence. Jerry was able to see not just individual sins and failures-of which he'd been very aware-but also where attitudes and lack of focus had caused him to veer off the path of God's will for him.

When Jerry left the retreat center, he had the great sense that his walk of faith had taken a great turn. The ministry of spiritual direction had helped him begin to deepen and mature in his understanding of God's ways in his life.

Patricia was not so much in search of spiritual direction at the depth that Jerry was. She sensed she needed more particular guidance, because she'd come to what seemed a big fork in the road.

Patricia had married Bill when they were both very young. In short order, they'd had two children. Patricia had become a Christian; Bill had not. As the kids grew, it became painfully obvious that their styles of parenting, and especially disciplining, were at odds. Bill was liberal and lenient; Patricia was conservative and believed in training children to obey their elders without a fight. Very quickly, their parenting clashes led to marital clashes. How could she be an effective parent, Patricia agonized, when Bill bucked her every step of the way? And how could she honor him as her husband, when he made it so difficult by not honoring her desire to raise the children according to her values?

Patricia's immediate need was not for the "big overview" of life, but for specific spiritual guidance in this one situation. And so she sought a biblical counselor to help her work on her parenting and marriage dilemmas.

Joe had been a Christian a long time, and he'd always lived in the same area in the northeast. Then his company was sold, and his job was transferred to the West Coast.

For a long time, Joe felt alone in his new location. He didn't seem able to connect with anyone, even though he attended church, Bible studies, and men's retreats. Then one day he met Frank. Frank was considerably older, and in many ways, on the surface, Joe was probably the last guy Frank would have reached out to as a friend. But Frank took an immediate interest in Joe; he made a point to call him and ask how he was settling into his new job and neighborhood. It was obvious that Frank just cared about Joe and his well-being. Frank made it easy for Joe to open up and talk about anything, from feelings of loneliness and displacement, to questions he had about his faith. And every time, Frank had an easy way of turning Joe's attention back to God and His constant care.

"Man," he said to Frank one day, "I've only known you a couple of months-but I feel like I've known you my whole life."

Joe found in Frank what has been called a soul friend; that is, someone who will stay at our side through the everyday ups and downs of life, helping us to maintain our faith focus.

Each one of these people experienced a different type of spiritually guiding relationship. Each is valid and necessary, and in the next chapter we'll look more closely at each one. Spiritual counselors and soul friends may be very familiar to us, but it's important for us to recognize how they fit into God's plan for our soul care. What we want to focus on in this chapter is the fact that every one of us has a great hunger within to find deeper meaning and purpose, and a closer, stronger relationship with God. We know we need direction.

To this end, many are visiting monasteries and retreat centers and meeting with spiritual directors in person or on the Internet. For those unfamiliar with the term spiritual direction, here is a simple working definition: "Spiritual direction refers to the ministry of soul care in which a gifted and experienced Christian helps another person to grow in relationship with and obedience to God by following the example of Jesus Christ."

Spiritual Direction: A Grace Revived

Spiritual direction, and the whole field of spiritual guidance, is enjoying a well-deserved revival in our times. Given the great need for it, this may be a new movement of God's Spirit, as ever more Christian leaders express the need for deep renewal and fresh direction.

An article in Christianity Today entitled "From Mass Evangelist to Soul Friend" describes the spiritual journey of evangelist Leighton Ford. After a thirty-year career preaching to large audiences (with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association), Ford felt the need for sabbatical space, to seek new vision. So he spent the quietness of those uncluttered days reading Annie Dillard's book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and practicing spiritual disciplines. This was new spiritual territory for Ford but, as he recounts, the benefits he experienced redirected his whole life. Graced with a fresh vision of intimacy with God, Ford traded in the pulpit for the one-on-one ministry of spiritual direction. Ford now spends his time listening to a spiritual seeker's story, pointing him to Christ if needed, and being used of God to deepen his relationship with the Savior. For Ford, "The heart of spiritual direction is helping the other person to listen and pay attention to what God is saying."

Ford's experience, and the similar experiences of many other evangelical Christians, stands as evidence that many are stepping outside the evangelical tradition to explore ancient Christian disciplines and practices that promote spiritual growth and maturity-"new" means to find the soul care and guidance they're looking for. This trend, which is gaining momentum, raises some questions: How does following Jesus Christ, as His disciple, relate to seeking spiritual direction? Isn't our primary relationship with God supposed to be "through" Christ himself, the "one mediator between God and men" (1 Timothy 2:5)?

Jesus Foremost

This book is about Jesus as the model spiritual director for twenty-first-century disciples.

As Christians we confess that Jesus the Christ is the fullness of God, come to us in human flesh to offer us the example of a life lived perfectly under the guidance and direction of God. As such, Jesus Himself is the perfect paradigm for completed humanity and the pattern for Christian ministry. Looking to Jesus as human beings we find answers to the questions and issues with which we all struggle. Looking to Jesus as disciples we find in Him the perfect pattern of how to minister grace to spiritual seekers.

This book, therefore, has two purposes. The first is to discover what Jesus says to those of us today who are keenly aware of our need for personal spiritual guidance. The second is to draw from the ministry of Jesus principles that will enable us-especially pastors, counselors, and others in the spiritual-care professions-to be effective guides for others. Though Jesus is our main model from which to learn the art of spiritual direction, He isn't our only model.

Along with Jesus, the Bible provides us many helpful examples of men and women who offer insight into the work of spiritual guidance and direction. Moses, Naomi, Nathan, and the apostle Paul stand out as effective spiritual guides. Two thousand years of Christian history also reveal other examples of godly spiritual directors, including the desert masters, Martin Luther, John of the Cross, numerous Puritan divines, John Wesley, as well as contemporaries such as Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, and James Houston. Founders of religious orders-for instance, Bernard of Clairvaux (the Cistercians), Ignatius of Loyola (the Jesuits), and Teresa of Avila (the Carmelites)-have also made important contributions to Christian spiritual direction. In the end, of course, we return to Jesus as our primary model. For while we can learn a good deal from the insights of great human spiritual leaders, the all-wise and compassionate Son of God is our ultimate pattern for receiving and giving spiritual direction.

My personal belief is that it's essential for us to study Jesus' role in the life-giving ministry of spiritual direction. The instruction we get from studying His intentions and methods will be crucial in our own spiritual lives and in the lives of those to whom we offer direction. Why do I believe Jesus' place is central?

First, Jesus made spiritual direction possible by providing the remedy for sin on the cross and launching believers on the spiritual journey to new life in God (see John 10:9). Second, Jesus is the infallible Way to the Father for each pilgrim who sets out on this journey (see John 14:6). Finally, Jesus is the model spiritual director who ministered spiritual guidance to first-century seekers and disciples. Virtually every conversation Jesus had and every teaching He gave offered spiritual guidance. Jesus was always pointing people to God and, if we claim to be His followers, so must we. Remember the Lord's words, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (John 13:15). Because Jesus was and is the Lord of Life, we can trust that His ministry of spiritual direction while on earth covered the range of needs and experiences we will face in our varied lives, complex creatures that we are. He focused on primary issues of knowing, being, and doing-constantly directing people to right beliefs, right relationships, and right conduct.

Imitating Jesus

If we are going to look to Jesus as our model, where do we start?

We begin in part 1 by looking to the Gospels, where we find Jesus "in action." As we watch Him in His encounters with people from all walks of life, and in complex situations, we can begin to comprehend His heart and imitate His practice. Jesus' last words before ascending to heaven apply both to Peter and to us: "You must follow me" (John 21:22)-for when He invited us to follow, He meant it as a directive and not as mere suggestion.

Our purpose, then, is to model our life after His life and our ministry to others after His. The apostle John put it this way: "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:6). The apostle Paul was also passionate about copying Christ: "Be imitators of me," he wrote, "just as I also am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1, NASB). Paul's word for "imitator" literally means one who "mimics." To follow Christ is to mimic Him. Peter wrote, "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (1 Peter 2:21). As Christians we trust Christ's merits for salvation, and so also we imitate His example in ministry.

Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) said, "In vain are we called Christians if we live not according to the example and discipline of Christ." Throughout the whole of church history, her leaders have likewise urged the imitatio Christi as the way to practice vital faith. The early bishop and theologian Clement of Alexandria (d. 215) wrote: "One truly follows the Savior by arranging everything to be like him," and Gregory the Great (d. 604) added, "Everything that our blessed Savior wrought in his mortal body he did for our example and instruction." The great medieval theologian Thomas à Kempis (d. 1471) urged, "Imitate Christ in life and behavior.... The clue to understanding Christ? Conform one hundred percent to his life." John Arndt (d. 1621), a famed Lutheran pastor, wrote, "If a man loves Christ, he must also love to copy his holy life." Although we fall short of this goal, Arndt wrote, "It is fitting that such a state should be loved, breathed after, and pursued with our utmost efforts." The French spiritual director François Fénelon (d. 1715) emphasized much the same: "We must imitate Jesus. This is to live as he lived, to think as he thought, to conform to his image, which is the seal of our sanctification."


Excerpted from soul guide by Bruce Demarest Copyright © 2003 by Bruce Demarest. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

DR. BRUCE DEMAREST was educated at Wheaton College and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He earned his doctorate in biblical and historical theology at the University of Manchester, where he was mentored by Professor F. F. Bruce. Bruce spent ten years working with evangelical missions organizations and also has taught at numerous evangelical seminaries throughout the United States, Canada, the Middle East, and Asia. A professor at Denver Seminary, he is the author of fifteen books and has written for national publications such as Christianity Today, Foundation, Reflections, and Criswell Theological Review. His book Satisfy Your Soul was named the 1999 Religion Book of the Year by ForeWord magazine.

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