It's Tuesday morning. I'm in Beaver Creek, Ohio, about to take the twenty-five minute drive though the rolling hills of southern Ohio to Wilberforce, and Payne Theological Seminary. This is my 7th, or 8th (can't remember!) year of teaching spiritual formation and transformation at Payne. What a great honor it is for me to do this. And how many friends have I found during these years.
I'll teach Tues-Fri, 9-5. I feel certain that, as it always happens, the students and I will experience God's transforming Spirit upon us.
I will present my theory of how God changes the human heart, root it in Scripture, and illustrate it through the writings and prayer lives of Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King, Jr. I discovered Thurman in 1982. His quotes were included in A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants, which I was using as a devotional guide (for two years!). Thurman is the Henri Nouwen of African-American spirituality.
In a course on swimming one would rightfully expect to get into the pool and experience the water. In a course on spiritual transformation one would expect to experience being transformed. Jeffrey Greenman and George Kalantzis write:
"The apostle Paul was supremely concerned that through the transforming power of the gospel, men and women would become "mature in Christ" (Col. 1:28). Maturity in Christ means being whole, complete and fully grown up. The goal of Paul's ministry was not that people would merely hear the gospel proclaimed, or understand it principally at an intellectual level or even become converts to a new social movement. His aim was that the proclaimed good news would be received and would enact its effective work at the deepest level of the human spirit, shaping the hearts and minds of people so that new life of Christ, given by the Holy Spirit, would so animate their character and conduct that they would truly become "like Christ." This goal was not reserved for a small spiritual elite but was intended for everyone. It was meant to mark individual lives and communal experience."
- Greenman and Kalantzis, eds., Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective, p. 9.