Adventure and the Way of Jesus: An Experiential Approach to Spiritual Formation
SIZE: 6 x 9
PAGE COUNT: 128
“I found that the fear I had about questioning what I thought was truth was more perceived fear rather than real fear. I discovered that God was not afraid of my questions. In fact, He was calling me into those questions.“
What things are best suited to help others grow spiritually, and what equipment is at the disposal of the spiritual facilitator?” Spiritual facilitators help others through their own presence, the conditions they create and maintain, and the effective use of questions to point, nudge, direct, and teach those who want to learn. One of the best contexts for discovery is experiential learning. This is a type of learning that requires action, reflection, and an undetermined result. In a word, spiritual formation requires adventure.
This book is a set of thoughts to challenge and inspire those who are in a position to help, teach, lead, or mentor others who are at their own crossroads, wondering if the lonely less-traveled road is for them. The author invites us to read slowly and listen closely as we join him in thinking about our part in God’s work on earth.
“Drawing on his substantial experience as a facilitator of change, Greg applies time-tested principles of personal development to his topic of spiritual growth. Inviting us to 'risk the unfamiliar,' he takes us down a path that, for some, might appear dangerous at first—the idea of questioning God, setting adrift from some of our pat answers, and seeing what happens when we ask the questions we are most afraid of asking. Greg masterfully helps us travel well on our spiritual path, without telling us exactly where to go—the holy grail of experiential learning, and evidence of years spent honing his skills.”
Mark Regouby, MTS, Harvard Divinity School, Co-founder of TellTheirStory.org.
“Greg brings together his expertise in experiential education, his deep understanding of spiritual formation and his own authentic journey to create an important guide for all of us who seek to follow Jesus and to serve as guides to others on the journey.”
Rev. David Jensen, M.Div, Founder & President, Initiatives International, Inc.
"This book has reaffirmed my belief in adventure teaching. It can last a weekend, a week, or a lifetime. It is about being a part of someone's life—being there for others when they are climbing their own mountain, so you can ask the difficult questions afterwards and bring them closer to who Christ is in their life."
Shane Seaton, Compass Wilderness, Trip Coordinator/Guide
“I have greatly benefited from Greg’s challenge to ask good questions and release control of the disciple-building experiences that I’m seeking to facilitate. In this approach, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate guide and teacher and our role is to listen and respond to His leading. This seems to reflect Jesus’ approach to discipleship and is quite an adventure.”
Rob Ribbe, Director of HoneyRock, Northwoods Camp and Campus of Wheaton College
Excerpt from the Book
As I looked behind me, I could see the top of the oak tree from which the long and slender platform extended shake and twist with every move I made. Looking forward, I could see the bottom of the ravine way below where it appeared the open maul of the earth was ready to swallow me. I heard the metal clink as the carabiner gate closed into place. Immediately it hit me, the weight of the cables pulling me toward the edge. The harder I resisted, the greater the tension on the swing cables and the stronger the draw to the edge. I was faced with a decision at that point in time. On one hand, I could allow my fear to keep me frozen in place. Although the status quo was unpleasant and unsustainable, I knew what I had there on the end of that platform. The other choice was to keep resisting the source of my fear and let the weight of the cables do their job and pull me into the unknown, where after a second or two of weightless uncertainty, I would experience the adventure of a lifetime. I am glad I took the leap.
This same scenario could be a description of my life of faith. I have had different sources of fear that motivated me toward God. At first it was the fear of judgment and punishment. I am glad that God had something much better in mind. My experiences, both structured and planned as well as those happenstances of life, have continued to question the skewed vision I had of God. Each time I was willing to question what I thought I knew, I discovered a clearer picture of the truth.
Now I want to ask you to take the same leap. There is more to faith than the legal image of a God that requires justice. That is our image: the one we have clung to in order to make up for our lack of trust. The legal God we can understand and deal with because that God is so much like us. The God we have forgotten existed in friendship with us before the great “Fall” in the Garden of Eden. That God came and walked among us. That God has chosen since the foundation of the earth to reconcile with us at all costs. The journey to see beyond the religious image of the legal God will require us to gain new practices, ideas, and equipment to unlearn our illusions and relearn a clearer understanding of the truth. For that we will need more than information, rules, and programs. We will need experience, community, and an adventurous curiosity that will keep asking questions and trusting things like reflection, solitude, and authenticity to change our lives and, in the end, the world.
Consequently, our journey together will start with understanding those images of God and the end result that we believe a life of faith is drawing us toward. For the spiritual facilitator, this will begin with exploring your personal beliefs as a practice field for preparing to help others do the same. Once we have a better understanding of the destination God’s adventure is calling us toward, we will turn our attention to how we can create space and time for others to encounter their own illusions and learn a different kind of faith.
My hope is that those who read this book will begin to ask a new and different set of questions about the work of faith building and spiritual formation, which will in turn stimulate you to create new ways of doing the work you are already doing. In fact, let me ask a few right now to see if they connect with where you are:
Would you dare to consider a spirituality that is not dependent upon being right, good, and productive?
If you could see a way to understand your true identity, would you dare to look?
If it were possible to foster authentic community made up of the mature and the curious, would you dare to try?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then open these pages and consider an experiential approach to spiritual formation. In the practices of retreat, pilgrimage, and service lies the adventurous journey of discovering who we are and how we can live well in the world we have been given. As the poet Robert Frost once wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Will you consider such a journey?
Think for Yourself
Stretch your imagination and open your mind as you consider how to work differently with those who are trying to grow their faith. I am not offering a ready-made plan. I will ask more questions than give answers. The goal is for you, the reader, to begin to think differently about what you do and how you do it. I believe all work that is truly effective in growing our spirits is local and particular. Local in that it will happen in a specific place and time. Particular in that it will happen with a particular set of people, with a particular set of stories, trials, and issues, with a particular leader who has his or her own unique story. I cannot and would not presume to say how you will do this work with others. But I can ask some provocative questions and tell you something about the answers I have unearthed with the intent of helping you to begin thinking for yourself and starting your own path rather than replicating mine.
What is an Adventurous Discipleship?
Discipleship is a term that describes a very intentional, purposeful, and disciplined effort to learn a particular set of teachings and live a particular way of life. In the Christian church it is used to describe the chosen path to understand and follow the way of Jesus. It is this particular work that this book is most dedicated to. That is not to say that only followers of Jesus will learn from the book. There are many kinds of lessons that can be found in the discussion that follows.
Adventure is something where the outcome is not predetermined nor controlled by us. Too much of contemporary Christianity is embedded in a system of thought that focuses on what we can do, understand, and control. According to this perspective, faith is a contract to be honored. The signs of success involve being right, good, and productive. Alternatively, the faith that we are invited into with Jesus is as unpredictable as the lives we live. So an adventurous discipleship is a way of understanding Jesus’ message and life that calls us deeper into the mystery of love and trust. As a result of answering this call, we realize that things have been set right with God and that our true value is defined by His actions for us. The kind of relationship that God wants from us cannot be found in talking about God. It is a relationship that we live into as we dare to trust in the acceptance He has offered.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: What Is the Intent or End Toward Which I Work?
Chapter 2: The Context of Adventure
Chapter 3: What are the Greatest Hurdles to Spiritual Formation?
Chapter 4: Understanding the Dynamics of Change
Chapter 5: A View of Christian Community
Chapter 6: A Particular Kind of Teaching
Chapter 7: The Spiritual Facilitator
Chapter 8: The Containers of Formation
Chapter 9: Containers Applied
Chapter 10: What Now?
Chapter 11: Experience With Purpose