Friday, April 16, 2004

how not to be an artistic whore

“how not to be an artistic whore” was the title of Bruce Benson’s presentation last week at the up/rooted north gathering. See his entire text for other thought provoking ideas concerning the relationship b/w the artist and the various communities she finds herself in. It was a great presention leading into an even better discussion.

Summary of Brian McLaren’s “Three Phases of Spiritual Formation.”

Brian McLaren, of Emergent, started of his presentation with two clarifications. 1) The term “spiritual formation” is a Catholic, or non-evangelical, way of saying the “Great Commission.” The Great Commission calls us to make disciples, but too often evangelicals make converts without any spiritual depth. So the practices and phases of spiritual formation is a means toward fulfilling this commission. 2) We can’t let the idea of “spiritual formation” turn into pietism, or a cultivation of our own individual soul, neglecting the world we live. We need to balance the inner life of contemplation (viva contempletiva) with the our outer life of action (viva active). So Brian says we must have a spiritual formation for global transformation; or, aim at global transformation through spiritual formation.

From here Brian outlines what he sees as the three phases of spiritual formation (gathering material from both the Western [Catholic/Protestant] and Eastern [Orthodox] traditions of Christianity).

The first is the phase called “viva purgativa” (or “catharsis” in the East). This is the stage of revulsion and expulsion. It is a time of purging our lives from sin, temptation, distraction. The Torah (Old Testament Law) teaches revulsion through its prohibitions. And the act of confession is a type of expulsion where we name our sin, and then separate ourselves from it; “That was me, but not now!!” is what confession says.

The second phase is called “viva illuminative” (or “photosis” in the East). This is the state of light, illumination. In this time we are allowing the light of joy and truth into our hearts and minds. This happens through scripture, prayer, meditation, and creation.

The last phases is called “theosis.” This is conceived as entering into the divine life of God. As an iron in the fire begins to glow brightly, as if the fire were inside it also, so too we can receive the divine life of God such that it lives with in us. Some might call this a mystical experience of God; and others would just call it sanctification.

Brian reminded us that we must keep in mind that these phases are not a linear progression (once we are done the first we will never go back), but better understood as seasons of life which we entering rhythmically (repeating yet with variation).

Then we entered into a time of Q&A with Brian, kicking around these ideas. If I have forgotten something important that Brian talked about, our you have any questions or comments, just post them below and we will continuing our dialogue.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004


Last Monday, Roland Kuhl of Norther Baptist Seminary led our up/rooted gathering in a discussion on "leadership" in the church.

We began with the by now well know outline of the business leader: the visionary- motivator-bottomline guy, telling everyone where we are going, why we are going there, and how we will get there. Now everyone in the room is pretty much against this image of the leader, esp. the idea of "vision caster" because when a strong, concrete vision is cast in a congregation two things happen: one, some (or many) don't fit in or see themselves in the vision; and two, a high level of stress accompanies that vision for those who buy in.

In contrast to this business model, Roland pointed us in the direction of how he sees leader used in scripture, namely as those who are among, alongside, and with. They lead through example and imitation. Leaders in don't set direction, but come alongside people and help everyone hear/see what God is doing. Part of this coming alongside is the role of articulating/interpreting what is going on in the community, saying what is already in the hearts of the people, rather than selling them on a vision or direction not arising organically from the community. Roland was really advocating a Mennonite version of Church leadership, or community leadership through consensus, 100% agreement. The reason for this is that decision making is not about getting things done, but about the spiritual formation of the community.

We discussed how an overly purpose driven or vision lead church teaches people not to discern the Spirit. The people look to the leader instead of Christ. As is commonly said, "He who cast the vision is the lead," but Roland pointed out that Christ cast the vision for the church and therefore is the only leader.

We also discussed group dynamics. How a group may gather for a common purpose/vision, therefore ordering the group. But then this ordering principle breaks down, and the group enters a chaotic time, disordered and headed toward death. But if there is a real value for relationships the group persists and finds its integrity within itself (rather than externalized through the vision), thereby becoming an actual living community. Through this discussion we realized that the presence of a strong vision actually hindered the formation of a strong community.

Much more could be said about leading through serving, our endless redefinition of leadership as a means of holding onto leading people, of the difference between men and women and leadership, but I’ll end here. It was a great time and very thought provoking.