This past weekend I had the unique opportunity to attend The Apprentice Gathering at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. I arrived on Wednesday night and spent the next three days gleaning from some of the top leaders in the field of Christian spiritual formation.
I first heard about this event several months ago when I stumbled upon it while googling some info on Greg Boyd, who happened to be one of the speakers.
Greg is one of my absolute favorite modern theologians/pastors/authors. Since buying one of his books in Books-a-Million back in 2009, I have followed his work with great interest. He has had an immeasurable impact on my theology and the way I think about God. Possibly more than anyone else. It was a huge honor just to meet him and say “thanks” in person.
When I started looking at the website for the conference, I learned that it was an event centered around the topic of spiritual formation. Over the last couple years, this is a topic of which I have had a renewed interest. I also recognized the names of a couple of the speakers. So I decided to take a chance and register.
While I didn’t personally know anyone at the event, I am so glad I attended. There were probably 300-400 people there from all over the world, and also from a variety of streams of the Christian faith. I love being in those types of environments. It’s where I tend to learn the most. And this event was no exception.
Much of what I gained is not really translatable to a blog post. Some of the notes I took were visual & pictorial in nature. But what follows are a few brief quotes from a few of the sessions I attended.
Opening “aTalk”: James Bryan Smith – Journey: Living Deeper in the Kingdom
The ‘yes’ of surrender is greater than the ‘no’ of self-denial. What is gained is far greater than what is lost (abiding peace > abiding anxiety)
Contrary to popular sentiment, grace is not just “unmerited favor.” Dallas Willard wrote, “Grace is God’s action in our lives.”
Who needs more grace – saints or sinners? Saints burn grace like a 747 burns jet fuel during take-off.
The “wide gate” is the way of non-discipleship (Matthew 7:13-14).
Intensive: Phileena Heuertz – Wake Up to Your True Self: An Introduction to Contemplative Spirituality
External solitude, silence, and stillness are only important insofar as they help us cultivate interior solitude, silence, and stillness.
You are a beloved child of God. We don’t grasp this because we are not formed in this.
Don’t give up when you experience spiritual dryness. Dryness is often a weaning away from the milk and being readied for the meat.
What does crucifixion look like in my life right now? Where is the invitation presenting itself? How am I resisting it?
We need prayer practices that can help us be receptive to the work of Christ. We cannot make ourselves be born again by simply adopting some new rational idea. We cannot bring forth our own transformation. This is something that must be done to us.
When you find freedom from the opinions of those who don’t trust you, your ministry will have greater impact.
Benefits of solitude/contemplation (‘sitting with Jesus’):
1. Peaceful presence instead of clinging to security and survival
2. Interior freedom instead of grasping for power and control
3. Divine love instead of craving affection and esteem
“aTalk”: J.R. Briggs – The Soul of Jesus’ Questions and the Questions of our Soul
Why are we so confident in our answers and so insecure in our questions?
What questions guide your life as a leader? …as a follower of Jesus? …as a human?
The quality and depth of our questions will directly impact the quality and depth of our souls.
Jesus used questions brilliantly. He asked over 300 of them. Apprentices of Jesus ask quality questions.
Jesus wasn’t the divine “answer man.” He was the divine “question giver.”
Workshop: Greg Boyd – Did God Really Do That?
What is your image of God? <– the most important question there is
God didn’t start becoming self-sacrificial with Jesus.
Jesus’ cross-centered ministry is the criteria by which all other pictures of God must be interpreted through.
The power of the resurrection is the power to live a cruciform life.
Workshop: Ken Shigematsu – How to Flourish Spiritually When We Feel the Pressure to Achieve
Our sense of “enough-ness” isn’t something we achieve. It’s something we receive. It’s a gift.
On a daily basis, if you can identify 3-4 things you are grateful for, it changes the way you move in your world.
It was an amazing experience. One of the coolest moments happened on the first night. I was in the Main Auditorium with a few hundred people gathered for a worship service. After the last song, the worship leader invited us to greet the people around us.
I turned to the dear lady right next to me and introduced myself. She smiled and said, “I’m Jane Willard.” She could see the curious look on my face.
“I’m Dallas Willard’s wife.”
If you don’t know anything about Dallas Willard, you really should. He’s one of the most important Christian authors of the 20th Century. He’s been one of my spiritual heroes for a long time.
About halfway through the speaker’s message it dawned on me that I had one of Willard’s books in my bag next to me. For some reason I’ve been carrying it around for the last few months. After the service, Ms. Willard was kind enough to sign it for me.
Finally, here’s a look at some of the scenery in Wichita.