Last week I shared the best three books on leadership I read in 2016. Now here are the top three spiritual formation books I read in 2016. All three books are much older than 2016, it just happened that I finally got around to reading them last year.
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian Jew working as a psychologist in the 1930s, and a contemporary of Sigmund Freud. During the war he was arrested and placed in a concentration camp by the Nazis, and survived two years, much of them spent in Auschwitz and Dachau. This book recounts his experiences there, the mental techniques he adopted to survive, and his theory that human beings can derive meaning from three things; relationships, work, and suffering.
Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard
A comprehensive book from Dallas Willard on the whole process of spiritual formation, i.e. how God interacts with and transforms the human soul and lead it to sanctification. It includes descriptions on the nature of humanity (differentiating soul, spirit, mind, body, etc), on the five virtues he describes as The Magnificent Five (faith, hope, love, joy, peace), and some brilliant insights on how our bodies have been elevated in Western culture, to the detriment of the spiritual life.
“Our Western societies worship youth and beauty; they focus on the body… there is fear, shame, disgust and even anger directed at fat, old (or just aging) people, at death and dying. For an outlook focussed entirely on the body, the failure and death of the body is the ultimate insult. This is a crucial insight for understanding modern Western life and culture.”
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
More foundational wisdom from Dallas Willard, this time directed towards how the spiritual disciplines (prayer, bible study, meditation, fasting, etc) play a huge role in the transformation and sanctification of our lives. We all vaguely understand this to be true, but Willard manages to help us understand better why this is true, and therefore why we should keep practicing them.
So again, these are my top three. What books taught you most about spiritual formation in 2016? (And before you say the Bible, I’m taking that as a given – if you’re not regularly reading that then dive straight in with either Matthew, Mark, Luke or John!)
Mark Williamson works as a director of One Rock. He’s an experienced leadership trainer, author of biographies on John Wesley and William Wilberforce, and is also passionate about praying for London. He enjoys good films, good food, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna. You can follow him on Twitter @markonerock.