Merriam-Webster defines formation as an act of giving form or shape to something or of taking form: development. This is how the term is used when talking about spiritual formation. It is talking about the idea of being developed or grown in one’s capacity to be and function spiritually.
When pastors, theologians, students of the Bible talk about formation they are assuming that there is an actualization taking place. They are assuming change, growth, and progress.
This idea of growth and progress spiritually is very important because without the formation piece of the equation there would be no practical manifestation of spirituality. If the term spirituality or spiritual is primarily concerned with part of the person that is being changed then the term formation is primarily concerned with the actual change that is taking place within a person.
When something is formed it changes. It might not change in kind just like a baby that grows up to be an adult is not a different person than they were as a child. While they are still the same according to their humanity, gender, ethnicity, etc. they are very different personally. They have become and are becoming someone.
Whether the change is slow or fast, profound or subtle, for the better or for the worse the person who is being formed is always changing.
With this being said the question I often ask myself, as a Pastor is, how do I help God’s people change for the better. How do I preach, plan, shepherd, and lead so that the people God has entrusted me are given every opportunity to be formed spiritually?