In the book The Critical Journey, (Sheffield, 2004) Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich propose a stage theory for the Christian journey. It’s a fascinating read and, I believe, is very useful as we think about our Christian life as a journey of faith. Here’s a quick summary of the stages:
- Recognition of God: God is big, I am little. God is wonderful, I’m a dope.
- The Life of Discipleship: I find help and identity through a significant leader or mentor.
- The Productive Life: I can do things for God and there is fulfillment in that.
- The Journey Inward: I am wrestling with doubts and my own inner life.
THE WALL – A time of significant crisis that can only be resolved as I face it directly.
- The Journey Outward: I am humbled and have a sense of being loved deeply by God. I can now reach out to others in a new way.
- The Life of Love: All that I do–inwardly and outwardly–is nested in God’s love.
These stages might be sequential, but people will move back and forth through the stages.
There isn’t a lot of room in the American church for people in stages 4-6. Strugglers, doubters and lovers don’t necessarily make good workers. Churches need people to do things. There are programs to run and volunteer positions to fill. If you want a lot of good attenders and workers, stages 1-3 are good targets.
We talked about exile last week.
Perhaps the purpose of exile is to transform us into people who have been delivered of our own sufficiency to the point of realizing our weakness. Maybe we are being prepared to function in a way that ministry among the body is mutual so that we can also learn from and receive from the least among us.
The 4th stage and the wall describe the experience of exile. This is the missional threshold – the point in our journey that determines whether we will remain consumers of religious goods and services or allow ourselves to be transformed into missional agents of God’s love and redemption to the world.