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Community Gatherings and Speaking Engagements

P1000923I have led workshops and retreats in communities, missions, and non-profit organizations. I have taught classes in colleges and seminaries. I have spoken in churches and other public gatherings. I have offered spiritual direction to individuals. Honestly what I am MOST interested in doing is facilitating and nurturing local expressions of consecrated Christian life and in supporting the full, rich, breadth of our pursuit and experience of relationship with God. In short, I am about helping individuals and communities to become wholly devoted to whole Gospel living and mission.

Below you will find descriptions of the sorts of topics regarding which I could be of service. At the end of this list are expectations regarding speaking engagements.

Community Gatherings

(note: I frequently adopt or design gatherings to fit the needs of particular groups- just ask!)   

  

1. Noticing God: Learning to Discern the Presence and Guidance of God in Daily Life

drawing from my book Affirming the Touch of God (University Press of America: 2000)

This workshop brings the wisdom of Christian spirituality into the questions of everyday Christian living.  “How can I find the will of God?” “How can I tell if my experiences are from God or not?”  “How can I make decisions about my own self and lifestyle in light of the trends of our world and the concerns of God’s heart?”  These and other related issues are addressed, as participants use their own pressing decisions to inform a learning process involving lecture, experience, and small group work.  Sessions include:

  • The Living God: Basic Principles of Discernment
  • Preparing to Discern
  • The Presence of God: The Material of Christian Discernment
  • Signs of God’s Presence: A Few Criteria of Discernment
  • Response-ability: The Consequences of Christian Discernment

Special retreats are also available addressing discernment for decision-making teams or for community life (Listening Community: Discerning God’s Spirit in Our Midst),  for discerning God’s strategy for socio-political strategies with special attention to the urban context (Discerning Ministry Strategies in Urban Cultures), and for addressing discernment in the context of renewal or revival (Discerning Revival: Lessons from Jonathan Edwards).

2. The Politics of Care

Drawing from unpublished manuscripts on Biblical economic concerns and on the metaphysics of power, from a chapter on politics in my forthcoming book, Love Wisdom: A Global and Practical Introduction to Philosophy, from the tenth chapter of The Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality, and from other experiments in political thought and practice.

This seminar explores a new approach to Christian political vision and action. Different angles could be emphasized in my presentation of the topic as desired:

  • a history of political theory in the West, with notes from the East. This survey shows the rise and fall of political experiments and political thinking in Greece and Rome, the dynamics of Medieval politics in Church and State, the development of modern nation-states and modern political theory, and the political developments in a post-modern political world.
  • a review of primary “Christian” approaches to politics and culture. Here we would look at H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic divisions of Christ and Culture and John H. Yoder’s critique. Here we would explore folks like Jim Wallis, Stanley Hauerwas, Jaques Ellul, Walter Wink, Ched Meyers and others. We would not only explore these people’s thought theoretically, but we would also see how the adoption of one or the other of these approaches would lead to a different political practice.
  • an exploration of the nature of “care.” Here we move into Biblical reflection, examining terms for care and discovering the place of care in a Christian understanding of the human life. We also explore the socio-political contexts that lie underneath different biblical eras so that we might understand politically relevant values as expressed in their own contexts.
  • the politics of care. This is the key section of the seminar. Here we take what we have learned so far and apply it to the Christian practice of political thought and action. We see what it might look like to promote and to live the values of God (particularly the value of “care”) in the world today. We compare a politics of care to those of anarchist resistance, prophetic action, moral majority, alternative culture and other Christian approaches. We explore the varieties of political influence and strategies of political action, discovering how Christians can authentically live and act in a pluralist culture.
  • the practice of care. Here we move to the very practical, talking about particular strategies and sustainable practice (in a world where we are overwhelmed with needs and opportunities to act). Here we talk about rhythm and community and action and spirituality and solitude all together.

3. A Call to Order(s): Inviting Christians to Religious Living

More and more Christians are calling out for order in their lives.  Harried homemakers and pressured professionals are looking for ways to live a Christ-centered life in the midst of contemporary chaos. Some believers have begun to practice spiritual disciplines, or to read some of the Christian classics and are now interested in taking a further step of bringing order to their commitment to Christ. “New Monasticism” is in.This retreat addresses these needs through an exploration of the values of traditional “religious orders” for their value to life in contemporary society.  It is our conviction that an intelligent and sensitive recovery of the “monastic ideal” is a worthy step for our generation.  After an introduction (and, if desired a historical review of religious orders), we introduce means of ordering our primary Christian values expressed in the monastic vows of Conversion of Life, Simple Generosity, Pure Love, Humble Service, and Persistant Consistency and their relevance in an age of Money, Sex, and Power.  We explore the means of establishing and ordering the “rhythms” of our lives in the context of a “Rat Race” society.  The elements of work, study, prayer, and ministry (central to religious orders) are all addressed as we examine concrete ways of embodying God’s call for our lives.  We see the value of silence and solitude in the midst of a generation of assertiveness.  We also explore some of the seemingly mundane “details” of life frequently discussed in the books of ancient Christian wisdom, possibly including food and diet, travel and transportation, entertaining guests and oneself, health and fitness, and clothing and fashions.  We place all of these into the variety of contexts of Christian living (or we can emphasize one particular context): in the context of the vows of marriage and family life, in the informal communities of friendship and church gatherings, in the context of vowed singleness or hermitages, and in the context of formal religous orders of various kinds.  Special attention can be given to help those who are interested in forming or joining formal religious orders.

4. Managing Conflict: A New Introduction to Spiritual Warfare

In this workshop we will explore the forces that threaten the work of the kingdom of God in our own lives, in our communities, in socio-political structures, and on our planet more generally. We will consider:

Ÿ  The “world” – the political, social, economic, cultural, and interpersonal forces that stand against the life-giving character of God’s kingdom God’s kingdom in local communities and in social and political structures.

Ÿ  The “flesh” – those tendencies, habits and such that keep us down and hinder our growth in Christ as individuals and communities.

Ÿ  The “devil” – the spiritual forces in the heavenlies that accuse, afflict, and otherwise influence humankind away from the ways of life.

Ÿ  “Nature” itself as a threat to our life on this planet, and what we can learn from the history of the modern West’s confrontation with the threats of nature.

We will draw from Scripture, the desert fathers, political theory, inner healing wisdom, classical Charismatic spiritual warfare material, social psychology, anthropology/missions studies and other fields in an attempt to re-vision the roles of the Christian and the ministry of the Spirit in gaining victory over the enemies of our faith and God’s kingdom here and now. Practical exercises will give opportunity for direct application of the material to the lives of participants.

5. Community and Life: Old Monastic Wisdom for New Monastic People

Drawing from my studies in things monastic, from my own personal explorations in things monastic, and from my work with intentional communities and ministries worldwide.

This workshop will introduce perspectives and practices that assist individuals, informal groups, and intentional communities in living out with clarity and stability their own values in Christ. A wide range of practices could be explored, depending on the needs or desires of those who offeere the invitation. Sessions will include teaching, practical experiences, and conversation. Themes might include:

  • Government, leadership and commmunity action in religious communities old and new
  • Sharing life together: establishing the basis for church and community
  • Forms of intentional religious life: solitaries, informal communities of support, collections of small groups, formal communities, networks of communities, and more – how to choose what and when
  • Living out everyday life in the midst of religious commitments and communities
  • Navigating the balance of structure and relationship
  • Planning for personal and community formation and growth
  • Mobilizing for contemplation and action

6. Understanding Christian Experience

drawing from my book The Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality (Brazos Press, 2008).

This seminar is designed to help believers understand the dynamics of Christian spiritual life.  Building from a model of human experience, relationship with God is shown to be dynamic, and mutually self-giving.  By the end of this seminar you will understand more clearly and experience more deeply what relationship with God is all about and why we talk about such things as “spirituality,” “formation,” and “mysticism.” Respect for personality type and ecumenical life is also emphasized in the model. Lecture and experience are used to illustrate the material.  Sessions may include:

 Human Experience

 Christian Experience

 Spirituality and Relationship with God

 The Ways of Conversion

 Ecumenism and the Experience of Others

 Reviving the Experience of the Church

7. The Church in Revival

This class/seminar is an introduction to revival.  Our intention is that the participants learn about revival, are inspired by revival, and taste revival.  The class looks at revivals in Scripture and in history to examine the elements of healthy revival.  We talk about the theology of revival, practices which cultivate revival, discerning authentic and counterfeit elements in times of revival, and pastoring the energy of revival.  We sing revival music, pray revival prayers, and experience the Spirit of revival.  Sessions can include:

 The Nature of Revival

 Revivals in Scripture

 Lessons from Revivals in the Early and Medieval Church

 Lessons from Revivals up to the Twentieth Century

 Theology of Revival: Conversion and the Knowledge of God

 Cultivating Revival 1: Intercession, Repentance, Obedience

 Cultivating Revival 2: Renewal as a Way of Life

 Responding to Revival 1: Discernment in a Time of Revival

 Responding to Revival 2: Love and Action

8. Humility and Church/Community Politics

This seminar develops the central theme of humility as taught in the scriptures, church history, and contemporary spiritual writings, and relates the theme to the universal experience of “church politics.” Basic principles of relationship, communication habits, conflict resolution and more are addressed as a list of “rules for applying humility in the context of church politics” is explored.  Freedom for discussion, questions, and personal application is given.

 

 9. Christian Spirituality in the Context of World Religions

This seminar, aimed at both inquisitive Christians as well as “seekers” in the things of religion draws from the instructor’s years of experience teaching Philosophy and World Religions at a secular College Campus. The seminar is designed to address issues related to intelligent Christian faith and relevant Christian experience as it relates to the diverse religious context in which we live today. We may cover such questions as: How do we evaluate the merits of one religion over another? What are the similarities and differences between Christian spiritual practice and that of another religion? What may be learned of benefit for Christians from studying or experimenting with other religions? How do we understand and speak of Christ in a pluralistic culture? A good deal of time in this seminar may be spent in discussion and addressing the questions of the participants.

P. S. – I also have taught and wrote about prayer, spiritual formation, living in voluntary simplicity, philosophy, and reasons for believing in Christianity. Feel free to work with me on what might be best for your group.

Speaking Engagements and Arrangements

Evan generally travels about once every three months. He has led seminars that are a few hours long and has taught classes that lasted two weeks. He would expect travel expenses to be covered. Any honorarium, however, is negotiable. He has never charged for ministry to incarnational ministries or communities among the poor.