Posted by: Yvonne | May 20, 2009

Spiritual Director

This article is from Pastor Larry DeBruyn of Franklin Road Baptist Church in Indianapolis.  Hat tip to Slice of Laodicea.

Regardless of what you might think of the operation of spiritual gifts—whether all of them, some of them, or none of them are operative today—we should be aware of the new spiritual gift on the block; the gift of “spiritual director.” As one spiritual director remarks, “I continue to be amazed at the richness of this gift to the church, whether it is experienced individually or in groups.”[1]  But just what is this gift?

Alice Fryling says that, “Spiritual direction is a way of companioning people as they seek to look closely, through the eyes of their hearts, at the guidance and transforming work of God in their lives.”[2]
Spiritual director appears to mimic the role of an eastern religious guru who tries to affect the spirituality of others in either one-on-one or small groups settings. As Fryling states, “People throughout the Christian church, including those of an evangelical orientation, are experiencing again the gifts that God gives to his people through the loving listening and the gentle guidance of spiritual directors.”[3] So what is the Bible believing Christian to think of this so-called gift?

We should know first of all, that in the lists of gifts in the New Testament (Romans 12:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-31; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:9-10), there is no spiritual gift of spiritual director.

 Second, the central gifts for the church’s edification are those of “teacher” and “pastor-teacher.” The risen and ascended Christ gave these gifts to the body of Christ so that it might come to, “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive . . .” (Ephesians 4:11-14). The exercise of their gifts is consistent with the example of Jesus. In the gospels, He was primarily known as, “Teacher” (Matthew 8:19). Too, Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples via a two-fold process of “baptizing” and “teaching” them (Matthew 28:19-20). According to his own ministry, the exercise of “the gift of teacher” is consistent with Paul’s own example and exhortation to Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 4:11; 6:2). The spiritual gift, as distributed by the sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, is that of “pastor-teacher,” not “spiritual director.” That is why Fryling must state that “spiritual direction groups” are an “exciting new branch from an ancient tree . . . a practice that began in the early years of Christianity when people followed the desert mothers and fathers out to the wilderness to ask them how to know God.” The gift of “spiritual director” is not sourced in the Bible, period.

What is important to the church is not that in one-on-one or in small group spiritual directors listen people and vice versa—though sharing fellowships have their place in the local church—but that the people listen to God, and listening to one another does not qualify as listening to God for we are neither God nor gods. As the Lord said to His people through the psalmist “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, / That Israel would walk in My ways!” (Psalm 81:13) And, “To listen . . . has the double force in Hebrew which it sometimes has in English: to pay attention and to obey. So this saying is close to the famous words of Samuel, ‘to obey (lit. to listen) is better than sacrifice.”[4]
This business of “spiritual direction” resembles an experience I once had in a T-group (i.e., sensitivity training) as a young teacher in a progressive school district where I worked in the late 60s. A doctor from a major mid-western university was my group’s “director.” The modus operandi of the group was that, “the learners [listeners?] use feedback, problem solving, and role play to gain insights into themselves, others, and groups. The goal was to change the standards, attitudes and behavior of individuals.”[5]
I fear that the so-called gift of spiritual director is just another guru-gimmick that sources spirituality in religious opinions, teachings, and practices utterly foreign to Holy Scripture. Such a departure will not promote the unity of faith, as does the legitimate gift of pastor-teacher, but a diversity of beliefs giving evidence that all the directors and listeners are being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”

For this usurping of the ministry of pastor-teacher in the local church, pastors are to blame. Into the the spiritual vacuum they created by allowing methods to trump the message, spiritual directors have moved in, and instead of being unified, Christians will become increasingly diversified (and apostate) as the emergent faith of pan-evangelicalism bows before the  postmodern culture.


[1] Emphasis mine, Alice Fryling, “A First Look at Spiritual Direction Groups,” Small Posted 5/11/09 (

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Derek Kidner, A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1976) 53.

[5] “T-groups,” Wikipedia (



%d bloggers like this: