Saturday, August 4, 2012

Edmonton's Urban Sanctuary offers four days of instruction in spiritual formation--for only $325

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. II Peter 1:3 (NIV)

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
II Peter 2:1-3

For background information on spiritual formation, I recommend searching under the terms "spritual formation" and "spiritual disciplines" at Critical Issues Commentary (look for printed material and radio broadcasts); Kjos Ministries; Lighthouse Trails Research Project; and Herescope. Spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation are advocated by those who believe that there are techniques or practices that Christians can employ that will enable them to live above the level of "ordinary" Christian existence. As II Peter 1:3 states, however, we already have everything we need for a godly life, and Peter didn't include spiritual disciplines or spiritual formation among the "everything."

Urban Sanctuary, affiliated with Larry Crabb's New Way Ministries, is Edmonton, Alberta's leading centre for the teaching of spiritual formation. Its latest event is a four-day workshop titled Biblical and Historical Foundations of Spiritual Formation (registration link deleted by blogger):

"Spiritual Formation" has come into its own ... at least as a Google search term.

Just type "spiritual formation" into your search engine and you will find pages and pages of websites and online articles referring to it in some way or another, plus a couple of handfuls of related searches. You can even go to Christianity today and other well known magazines and find, again, pages and pages of articles referenceing "spiritual formation." And, as with most popular search terms, you can also find controversy. Some say spiritual formation is essential to life in Christ, others claim it is unbiblical and a return to works righteousness.

Many pastors, church leaders, and christians in general are unsure what to think about spiritual formation. On the one hand they identify with statements like this, which speak of a need for a new look at spiritual maturity:
Our world today cries out for a theology of spiritual growth that has been proven to work in the midst of the harsh realities of daily life. Sadly, many have simply given up on the possibility of growth in character formation.
Vast numbers of well-intended folk have exhausted themselves in church work and discovered that this did not substantively change their lives. They found that they were just as impatient and egocentric and fearful as when they began lifting the heavy load of church work. Maybe more so. (Richard Foster, The Spiritual Formation Agenda, February 4, 2009)

But, on the otherhand, they are not interested in a new direction or teaching that doesn't have a firm place both in the Bible and in Christian history, including Protestant Christian history.

The goal of this seminar is to address the place of spiritual maturity and spiritual formation, as it is defined in our day, both in the Bible and in the lives of Christ followers throughout the centuries. It is a seminar for pastors, church leaders, and all those who want to find out more about spiritual formation and the place it has in our lives as Christians.

Dates and Times:

August 13 – 16, 2012 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.,

Location : Urban Sanctuary

Cost: $325, lunch is provided each day

Sound interesting but you can't make if for the whole time? You can also come half-time for $150 (Lunch not included)...
•Mornings - Biblical Foundations of Spiritual Formation
•Or Afternoons - Historical Foundations of Spiritual Formation
On the page of Urban Sanctuary's website titled Our Vision, you read:

Our goal is to send people back into the Body after being brought to a place of maturity and to stimulate the Body to a new way of thinking (spiritual theology), a new way of living ( the hope of sanctification) and a new way of relating (loving deeply)...

...We desperately want to keep that flame alive and so feel that our mission is to safeguard and teach an understanding and practice of spirituality that once marked evangelical churches over a hundred years ago...

...We feel a revolution must take place to recover the power of sanctification in the life of a Christian. We need a Biblical theology of spirituality, a practical knowledge of the spiritual journey and a humbleness to learn and help each other in the journey.
Urban Sanctuary talks about "biblical theology of spirituality," while encouraging practices that aren't found in the Bible (and I hardly need mention that evangelical churches "over a hundred years ago" didn't engage in the spiritual activities promoted by Urban Sanctuary, but were opposed to them). Please keep in mind that Urban Sanctuary charges a hefty fee--$325 for 4 daytime sessions--in order to help others in "practical knowledge of the spiritual journey."

Urban Sanctuary apparently sees no irony in charging people over $80 per day for spiritual growth, while affirming "sustainability" as one of its values:

We will work, both corporately and privately, so that we will not be a burden to the body of Christ. This will involve living a simple lifestyle and learning skills that can support us financially.

At $325 per person for a 4-day workshop (and they don't even give you lunch if you go only for half-day sessions), it seems that some people are being asked to fork over a lot of money in order to help Urban Sanctuary maintain its "simple lifestyle." In this respect, Urban Sanctuary resembles the ashram of Mohandas "Mahatma" Gandhi:

In fact Gandhi’s own ashram, with his own very expensive ‘simple’ tastes and innumerable ‘secretaries’ and handmaidens, had to be heavily subsidized by three merchant princes. As one of his circle observed: ‘It costs a great deal of money to keep Gandhiji living in poverty.’ Paul Johnson, A History of the Modern World from 1917 to the 1980s (1983), p. 471

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