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    Entries in Spiritual Formation (36)


    Reflections on the Weekend :: Apprentice Conference with James Bryan Smith

    This past weekend I got to do something that I have never done.  I got to travel to conference, not as a participant, but as a leader.  The circumstances that led me to be part of the team leading this conference in a way couldn't be more odd, or, stated differently, couldn't be more peculiarly Kingdom-like.

    The Book

    I've mentioned James Bryan Smith's book The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love With the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series) here before.  I think it is a fantastic book, and it is the first of three in a series.  In the book Jim carefully analyzes a number of prevalent "God narratives" that we all have (i.e., God loves me when I'm good, and punishes me when I'm bad), examines those narratives and the ways they show up in our lives (works righteousness, excessive guilt), and presents challenges to those bad narratives in light of "Jesus narratives" that radically reshape our view of God (i.e., we worship a generous God of grace who, for example, sends rain on both the wicked and the good (Matt. 5:45)).  Jim concludes each chapter with a spiritual practice that is meant to help establish new God narratives in the life of the reader.  The practices are simple and quite easy to undertake (sleep, holy leisure, praying the 23rd Psalm, etc.), and are effective because they create space for people to spend time with God.

    The Conference

    The Apprentice Conference was held at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  The team for the weekend consisted of Deidre Franklin, Matt Johnson, Jimmy Taylor, C.J. Fox, myself, and Jim.  Jim, of course, was the one presenting most of the content.  He wrote the books, he has the most experience in ministry, and he is the man the people want to hear from.  But Jim is very clear in saying that much of what he has discovered has emerged through community, and thus invited members of the team to share various aspects of their thought, as well as join him for question and answer and discussion times at the conference.  On Saturday, C.J., Matt, and myself were responsible for small breakout sessions, and we each taught a discipline (or two) that people could take up in their walk.  On Sunday, Jim taught a Sunday School class, as did C.J. and I.  Based on the feedback we all thought things went very well.

    Over the weekend I think we all learned a lot.  I discovered a great deal about everyone on the team, as we spent time together outside of the conference sessions, evaluated how things went, and listened to one another's stories.  I rediscovered that I really enjoy teaching, and I enjoy ministry.  I found myself encouraged to be in community with people who truly want to put on the character of Christ, not simply gain more information about him so that they can answer questions correctly on a test.  I was surprised to meet a pastor named Jeff from Washington state, who just happened to Google Jim's name after reading the book, and flew to OKC to learn more about the material firsthand.  I also spent time talking with a number of pastors during the breaks, who also delighted me with their questions, enlightened me with their ministry stories, and encouraged me as they listened to all I have been through over the past year.

    All in all, I consider this weekend a beginning, with hopes that there will be many more weekends like it to come.  At the very least, I learned more about those on the Apprentice team, and am glad to have strengthened those friendships.  Also, I learned more about discipling people, which will continue to serve me in my ministry here.

    Good stuff!  If you want to learn more about Apprentice, ask away!

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