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Spiritual Direction - February 2023
What is Spiritual Direction?

We’re familiar with Christian counselling.
Bible study.
Prayer meetings.
Spiritual friendship.
And then there's spiritual direction.

Although less familiar, the ministry of spiritual direction is a worthwhile and time-tested way of tending to the inner life. In his book Spiritual Direction: A Guide to Giving and Receiving Direction, Gordon T. Smith says

Spiritual direction is a ministry that assumes that we do not live self-constructed lives.
We are not on a self-improvement project
with a few self-help books to guide us on the way
and a spiritual director to help us improve -
like a life coach, perhaps, who might help us
identify and move into patterns or habits that will foster personal success.
However helpful or legitimate all of that might be, when we come to spiritual direction
we affirm that the Christian life is lived in radical dependence on the Spirit
and through intentional response to the Spirit.

Meeting with a spiritual director regularly is one way to pause and pay attention to what God is doing or would like to do in your life. Being a church leader requires a great deal of performative ministry and care for others. Without meaning to, we can easily find ourselves in a personally deprived or neglected spiritual state. Although a regular meeting with a spiritual director may not seem urgent, it could be an important way to nurture your own relationship with God. It also makes me wonder if regular spiritual direction could be a way to guard ourselves against the pitfalls of church ministry - the burnout, the moral failures, the cynicism, the loneliness. Although VMC's vision is centred around more and better churches, without healthy and spiritually transformed leaders who are intentionally and actively participating with God, we're doomed.
As someone trained in spiritual direction, James Prette has helped Hollydene Church in Victoria, BC to corporately engage more in contemplative life.
Some of the practices that are part of spiritual direction, like regular reflection on the Psalms, silence, and a broader experience of prayer, has shaped James’ approach to faith in a personally helpful way.
So to transfer some of these things to congregational life has been a natural move.

During COVID, James sent out weekly contemplative prayers.
In fact, they were the biggest download for church members.

For regular church Sundays, he often incorporates time for silence and contemplative prayer.
It’s recognizing that the Spirit is present and wants to communicate with us.
It’s taking the time and giving the attention needed to listen.

Spiritual direction is all about companioning someone on their journey of faith.
So it makes sense that pastors borrow from the ministry of spiritual direction.
As church leaders, this is what we want - that people will know and experience the God who so very much loves this world.
Meet a Spiritual Director
Sandra Osborne

Based out of Calgary, Alberta, spiritual director Sandra Osborne offers the gift of holy listening and spiritual conversation to church leaders and their spouses.
She desires to create a safe place for those in ministry to slow down and talk about things.
Together, to recognize God’s presence and to make sense of how God is active in their life.
To provide the gift of listening.
To facilitate fresh understanding of themselves, their ministry, God.
To connect the dots.
Essentially, to provide soul care.

Sandra hopes that the ministry of spiritual direction strengthens church leaders’ ministries,
increases their longevity in ministry,
alleviates alone-ness,
and allows them to see God in their own lives.

Photo creds: Sixteen Miles Out (Unsplash)
Mark & Petra Anderson

Former pastors, Mark and Petra Anderson are coaches and spiritual directors. 
Over the years they have walked alongside many VMC church planters.

They offer spiritual direction as a safe space to encounter God.
They don’t tell directees what to do or what God is saying, but instead help them to focus their attention on God and to hear His voice.
It is very much the chance to slow down, listen, and pay attention.
“What is God saying?” 
“What is God inviting me into right now?”
“What is God asking of me?”
"What is God longing to give me?"

Especially time for this cultural moment of change and uncertainty, more than ever, church leaders need to know that they are following God and not their own ideas or desires.

Photo creds: Jeremy Yap (Unsplash)
David Benner, psychologist, author, and spiritual director, has written extensively on Christian spirituality. His book, Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction, explores spiritual growth and transformation within the Christian community, specifically friendship and spiritual direction. In his words,

"In recent years the church has been tragically marginalized as a provider of soul care. The rise of the therapeutic culture dominating the West in the last century led to an artificial separation of the psychological and spiritual aspects of persons. If the church is to be restored to its rightful place of relevance to and preeminence in supporting the care and cure of souls, we must equip and encourage people to offer themselves to others in relationships of soul friendship and spiritual companionship."
Ruth Haley Barton, author, spiritual director, teacher, and founder of the Transforming Center, is a well known and much needed voice when it comes to spiritual care for church leaders. Her books, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, Sacred Rhythms, and her latest one, Embracing Rhythms of Work and Rest: From Sabbath to Sabbatical and Back Again, focus on the inner lives of spiritual leaders. In her words,

"My desire is to guide you into encounters with God that will strengthen the soul of your leadership. Truly, the best thing any of us can bring to leadership is our own transforming selves. That is the journey I am committed to and it is the journey to which you are invited as well."

IBCM8 Global Conference 2023

The International Brethren Conference on Mission takes place next June 19-24, 2023 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. People from over 155 countries will be there to worship and learn and be strengthened for ministry. Ramez Atallah, former president of the Egyptian Bible Society, will be the keynote speaker. (Also, interesting to note, Ramez came to know the Lord at Rosemount Bible Chapel in Montreal while a student at McGill!)

For registration information: IBCM8 Conference
TS2023 - April 28-30, 2023

Sensing an urgent need to invest in the emerging generation, we have repurposed our national gathering to focus exclusively on young leaders this year. Over the final weekend of April, we intend to gather a select group of young adults in central Ontario, to consider what the Spirit is saying to the Church in Canada. Through featured presenters, panel discussions, breakout sessions, prayer and worship, we hope to encourage and inspire young women and men in their passion for Jesus and his mission. 

Will you help us to identify those who should be at this event? We are looking to pastors and official church leaders to recommend one or two young adults from their congregation who are known as people with unusual kingdom influence. Ideally, we are looking for 20-35 year olds (approximate age range), whose love for Jesus, personal character and potential gospel-impact is evident to most. Neither the pursuit of nor involvement in full-time ministry is required to attend. Generous travel subsidies will be available to help participants make the trip to Ontario. 

Action Required: Who is the Spirit calling to mind, even as you read this? Attendance at this event is by invitation only. As a key congregational leader, will you nominate 1-2 young adults from your ministry context who you sense should be at this event.

Please send us their names and contact information in the next few days, so that we can contact potential participants. We have been praying and, as names arrive, will continue to seek the Spirit’s guidance about who to invite. Please pray with us for discernment.

Send your recommendations (name & contact info) to: info@vision-ministries.org
VMC Storytelling
Every week, we share stories from across our network of churches - on Facebook, Instagram and our website - that show how God is at work in and through His people.

Here are a few stories:
God's Patient Leading Read story
Following the Path Read story
New Families Read story
Unity within a "Church Experiment" Read story

Watch for more stories by following us on Facebook, or Instagram or visit vision-ministries.org/stories
Pray with us
Please join us as we gather and pray together online each month for our VMC churches and leaders.
To sign up or request further information contact Mike Stone at mike.stone@vision-ministries.org

The VMC prayer team gathers on the first Thursday of the month at the following times across the country:  1:00-2:00pm (Atlantic), Noon-1:00pm (Eastern), 11:00-Noon (Central), 10:00-11:00am (Mountain) and 9:00-10:00am (Pacific).