February 15, 2014 The Four Journeys of Christianity
“Life is a is a journey, not a destination.” You have probably heard that quote before. Have you heard this one: “Christianity is destination, not a journey.” At least, that is how many preachers portray it.
In reality, however, Christianity is very much a journey, a journey with four dynamics.
Several years ago I participated in the Pastors of Excellence program. It was six retreats put on by Ashland Seminary to enable pastors to engage in the four journeys of the Christian Faith:
- The Inward Journey
- The Outward Journey
- The Upward Journey
- The Forward Journey
Each four day retreat focused on one of these journeys through lecture, small group interaction, personal and group spiritual exercises, and worship. It changed me.
In the Inward Journey we did the hard work of discovering our true and authentic self, both our gifts and talents as well as our faults and failings. We were encouraged to recognize our false self that we project to others and to know what it is deep inside us that causes our fears and our dysfunctional behaviors. Most importantly, all this work was done within the awareness of Jesus’ loving and safe presence, for no one will willingly risk the pain of becoming whole without being safe.
In the Outward Journey we examined how we relate to others, what we do well and what we do that sabotages healthy relationships. More pastors—and more people—get into trouble because of the way they handle relationships with others than for any other reason. Christianity is a relational religion, for at its core it is about God’s relationship with us, our relationship with God, and our relationship with each other. The relationship between Jesus, Spirit, and Father is both a model and the power that enables strong, wholesome human relationships.
In the Upward Journey we explored a variety of ways of connecting with God. Throughout the centuries the church has discovered a diversity of practices and spiritual exercises to transform us more fully into the image of Jesus and to set aside all that keeps us from constant communion with God. It was only after we had identified what needed fixed within us and what needed fixed in our relationships were we able attend to our brokenness with God.
Only after knowing ourselves intimately and lovingly, only after allowing our relationships with others to be authentic and vulnerable, and only after learning to trust the presence of God to make us whole, only then we were asked to consider the Forward Journey. The false selves, the hypocritical relationships, and the dysfunctional spiritual practices all had to be stripped away before we could truly consider asking the question: What is God calling me to do? Otherwise the answer would come from our false self instead of our true self. It is our true self who is uniquely created and called by God, who is forgiven and transformed by Jesus, and who is guided and empowered by Spirit.
These four journeys are not just for pastors but for all Christians. It is helpful to be aware of these four dynamics to the Christian journey. Undoubtedly the Holy Spirit is inviting you in this season of your life to pay attention to one of these since the Spirit tends to have us focus on one dynamic at a time. You might ask yourself, “What is giving me the most challenge right now?” Challenges and troubles are common means by which the Spirit brings to our attention the places of our transformation.