Spiritual Formation III: The Critical Journey, part 2

Posted: May 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith, by Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich. Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Co. 2004. 268 pp.

Instead of a traditional book review of The Critical Journey, I wanted to share a personal life journey, structurally connected to this book. I would strongly encourage you to get and read the book, but perhaps sharing my own journey will resonate with you in your own growth. Drs. Hagberg and Guelich talk about 6 stages in the journey of spiritual development. My review went pretty long, so I divided it up into sections. Numbers in parentheses refer to page numbers from the second edition.

Spiritual Formation II: The Critical Journey, part 1

Stage 3 The Productive Life

This stage is described as the “doing” stage (73). This stage began in my teenage years, still concurrent with the “life of discipleship.” At first, the doing was part of the apprenticeship, as I “did” alongside my mentors. This stage is described as “the height of the faith experience” (74), and involving more effort. “It seems to be an almost insatiable period because everything is going so well.” (74) At age thirteen, I started preaching in our church, at first irregularly on Sunday evenings, then more regularly, and eventually Sunday mornings, when my dad was gone. I went to Bible College at age sixteen, and was immediately involved in service in churches. By age nineteen, I was traveling around the U.S. as part of a drama team, but was also the designated “evangelist,” preaching every day in churches and schools. In college, I was involved in drama and music, church ministry, etc. I definitely had the strong sense of “doing what is right and being useful.” (76)

I don’t think I was necessarily stuck at this stage, like I was with stage two. Although, it could be that I still function at stage three. As a missionary pastor, much of my life is involved in this stage. On pages 8-9, Dr. Hagberg discusses how we sometimes return to particular stages. This is probably the stage that I return to – although in the past few years, I think it may be being replaced by stage 5. On pages 93-94, we see that most “priests, ministers, and other spiritual leaders . . . have not been led through [stage four] themselves.” I definitely see how easy that would be. There is a security in stage three. (107) However, I do see two elements that led me – at least in part – past this stage.

The first element, in 1990-95, was the influence of a mentor, my senior pastor in my first church after college. He challenged some of the fundamentalist rules, and encouraged us to fellowship with, pray with, and work with those outside our little camp. He also introduced me to a wider range of Christian experience. This led me on to stage four, where I began the journey inward.  The second occurred much later, in 2007-2008, when I went through the wall. Looking back, I was living in stage three and four, concurrently, but a crisis initiated the wall.

Stage 4 The Journey Inward

Stage four is a “deep and very personal inward journey” (93). I would agree, but I also think this journey frequently happens in fits and starts. This journey started a little for me in Bible college, when one of my professors directed us to a Greek study of Romans 14, and I began to think about the implications of freedom in grace upon our fundamentalist legalism. In addition, my travels as an evangelist took me to some really great churches that didn’t hold so tightly to the strict rules of our college.

However, the first major challenge to stage three came through the mentor I described earlier. He was very intentional about pursuing a “personal integrity in relation to God” and to “releasing God from the box.” These are both mentioned on pages 97-99. In addition to our building bridges to our Assembly of God, Bible church, and Methodist brothers and sisters, we began promoting a much more grace-based approach to our walk with Christ. This necessitated some deep questioning on my part. Eventually, although both he and I, and our church, were kicked out of fellowship with the fundamental Baptists, I felt I finally had a healthy understanding of God and my relationship with Him. However, I don’t think I quite moved through the wall. Although none of the “stuck” issues on 105-107 quite resonate with me either. Dr. Hagberg’s point on page 108 about “committing to whatever it takes” as part of moving from stage four to stage five does resonate, though. So, either I went through a fairly painless wall, or I don’t remember the crisis quite so vividly anymore, or I returned to a healthier version of stage three.

Next up: THE WALL (sounds scary, huh?)


  1. […] Spiritual Formation II: The Critical Journey, part 2 […]

  2. […] Spiritual Formation II: The Critical Journey, part 2 […]

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