I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon to participate in a two-year spiritual formation community supervised by Ruth Haley Barton at her Transforming Center in Chicago. Once every three months — nine times overall — I’ll spend Sunday evening through Tuesday afternoon with a group of about 70 other church leaders in a directed time of spiritual development, self-reflection, and training. I’ll be equipped to engage the Scriptures on a deeper level, to enrich my personal relationship to our God in prayer and presence, and to pay better attention to my own spiritual growth. The main idea is to learn how to make myself more available to the Lord for the sanctification work he wants to do in me and through me.
Some of the people in my life I admire the most have gone through the Transforming Community and have been recommending it to me for some time: Jim Martin, Eddie Sharp, Greg Dowell, and Steve and Judy Rogers.
There’s a lot of required reading — I’ve already read the assigned Invitation to a Journey by Robert Mulholland and Thirsty for God by Bradley Holt. I’ll be writing a few reflection papers, seeing a spiritual director, and participating with a smaller community of five or six lay leaders and clergy over the course of these two years.
My aim is to deepen my relationship to Christ for the sake of being a more complete and godly man, husband, father, and preacher. I’m going to intentionally stay away from taking notes in order to bring something back for the church. I’m not going to listen to the speakers and read the books looking for sermon series or teaching ideas or anecdotes. The worship, the prayer, the readings, the Scripture, the small groups, the silence and solitude, the spiritual disciplines — this is for me. I might experience some things I’ve not encountered before, I may be asked to join in activities that will seem questionable, and I’ll be stretched in a few areas that might make me uncomfortable. But I’m going into this like I attempt to enter most things: to fully participate, to give myself wholly to the experience, to make myself completely available to God and whatever he wants to do with me at that time.
I’m leaving my laptop at home so I won’t be able to check email and I’m turning my phone off at 4p Sunday and won’t turn it on again until 2p Tuesday so I won’t be interrupted.
I’m deeply grateful to the shepherds at Central who enthusiastically support any of my efforts to better myself spiritually. They encourage it, they demand it. I’m so thankful. They are giving me the time off, they are paying for the experience, and they are personally interested in my progress.
Please pray for me as I enter this two-year commitment to better spiritual health and practices. Pray for the three others from Central who will be experiencing this with me: Hannah McNeill, Mary McNeill, and Mike Robertson. Pray that winter storm “Hunter” won’t dump too much snow on the Chicago area tonight and tomorrow. And pray for my family while I am away.