This “isolation” came into perspective for me when one of my former students paid an overnight visit a few weeks ago on his way to a week-long conference on spiritual formation. Steve Booth, Associate Pastor for Christian Formation at First Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, was president of the student body at Campbell University my first year on the faculty there. Because he had “saved” until his last year the course in New Testament required of all students for graduation, I had the opportunity to meet him and teach him the introductory course in New Testament Thought. Although we have had only infrequent contacts during the intervening 30+ years, we developed such a bond of mutual appreciation and respect that I count him as somewhat of a “soul mate” in the ministry.
When I had heard last year that Steve had gone to Alabama from Virginia for a week of study with the Academy for Spiritual Formation, I sent him a note. Since the highway from Richmond to Alabama passes very near our home, I told Steve that we would love to have him visit with us if he ever made that trip again. He accepted our invitation and stopped to visit with us on his way to this year’s conference. It proved to be a stimulating visit.
I shared with Steve my “Making Disciples” chart, and I believe he is the first person who really “got” what I have been trying to envision through the chart. More importantly, he was able to put my work in the context of his broad experience and perspective in the arena of spiritual formation. He openly shared ideas, resources, and experiences that stimulated my thinking in so many ways. The experience was so stimulating, in fact, that I could hardly sleep that night. So many thoughts and ideas were running through my mind that I finally got up about 2:30 in the morning and went to my study and began to write down all of the fresh perspectives that I was gaining from the interaction with Steve’s interest, experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm for spiritual formation.
I have waited to engage that experience in my blog, primarily because I had launched a new aspect of the blog on the very morning before Steven arrived for his visit. I confess that I got into my reflections about my baseball and Little League experiences without really knowing why I was going in that direction. Something within me was harking back to foundational experiences that I needed to reflect upon and assimilate. Steve’s insights gave voice to my reflective impulses and, more importantly, gave renewed perspective to my “Making Disciples” chart. I made three pages of notes that morning that were a synthesizing experience for me as my own ideas took on new clarity with Steve’s help in setting them in a larger context. I am going to work out of those notes in my next few posts. Some of this will be repositioning aspects of my blog posts that started back in November when I began to reflect on spiritual formation through the “Making Disciples” chart. When Steve sees these upcoming posts, he probably will wonder how I got from our conversations to these conclusions. The connection is in the context of a new macro view that sets our quest for Christlikeness in a fresh perspective of Christian experience, spiritual practices, and faith formation. Stay tuned!