Sunday, February 05, 2006

Wheaton Christian Center in Chicago Trib on Spiritual Formation

Has the race to faith passed you by?
January 29, 2006
By Patrick Kampert / Tribune staff reporter

She has been a member of Wheaton Christian Center for 20 years, but Linda Richardson remembers initially steering clear of the predominantly African-American church when she began her spiritual journey because she saw "too many white people" streaming out . . .

===>For the complete article, click headline to access Chicago Tribune webiste, then Search for "Spiritual Formation"

{From page 3} . . . The University of Chicago study on spiritual transformation may suggest that some of the transformed are still having difficulty dealing with life's troubles. Lead researcher Tom Smith said his research team is puzzled that the people who had experienced religious change didn't report better health, a more positive outlook on life or even more job satisfaction. "We've now tagged that for follow-up examinations," he said.

But Dallas Willard, a USC professor and an expert on spiritual formation, says the conundrum may be a symptom of a faith experience that lacks depth. After lawyer-turned-preacher Charles Finney held revival meetings in Rochester, N.Y., in the 1800s, Willard said, the jails and courts were empty because the residents were truly changed in character. He doesn't see that happening in the U.S. today, despite the study's numbers, and wonders whether words such as "transformation" and "born again" have been politicized and emptied of meaning.

"One of the problems with current contemporary Christianity is that every Sunday, churches are offering `life-transforming experiences,'" he said. "It's kind of like the blurbs you read on book [covers]--you just wonder what the world would be like if all that were true, if all the people who went to these life-transforming churches came out saints. It would certainly impact the world."

--Patrick Kampert

Here are some steps to take toward peace and fulfillment

Faith is more than a conversion. It's a process. And that comes straight out of the Bible, says Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, author of "Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us" (InterVarsity Press, $16).

"There are all kinds of illustrations in the Gospels that our relationship with God, like any other relationship, has cycles and seasons and high points and low points," she said.

Calhoun, director of spiritual formation at Christ Church of Oak Brook, offers a bounty of tips for spiritual growth. Though her book is geared toward Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox groups, a number of her suggestions can be applied to other faith traditions. Together, her hints spell out an acrostic called WORSHIP:

W: Worship. Embrace classical disciplines such as celebration, gratitude, community and sabbath.

O: Open yourself to God. Journaling, going on a retreat, simplifying your life, self-care and unplugging from the modern world can be helpful.

R: Relinquish the false. This involves confession of sin, detachment from addictions and welcoming silence and solitude.

S: Share your life with others. A spiritual journey, Calhoun says, is meant to be done in community. Small groups, hospitality, mentoring and discipling are paths in this direction.

H: Hear God's word through Bible study, devotional reading, memorization and meditation.

I: Incarnate the love of God, witnessed by service in the world, justice, stewardship, humility and care of the Earth.

P: Pray. Calhoun's book offers 14 ways of entering into prayer, including conversational, liturgical, centering prayer, breath prayer, healing prayer and pilgrimage prayer.

--P. K.

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