In this current report we examine the history, philosophy and the outreaches of the "churches of Christ affiliated" Institute for Christian Spirituality (ICS).While there I will verify in person the veracity of what is taught as being biblical, or not.
David Lipscomb (1831 - 1917) (pictured right) was a pioneering 19th century gospel preacher who along with James A. Harding founded Nashville Bible School in 1891 which was renamed David Lipscomb Junior College after Lipscomb's death. In 1948 after graduating it's first senior class the school then became known as David Lipscomb College. In 1988 it became known as David Lipscomb University after adding post graduate studies. In 2005 the school dropped "David" from it's name and is now known as Lipscomb University. In it's storied past the school has produced a number of great men of God including H. Leo Boles, Batsell Baxter, Batsell Barrett Baxter, Athens Clay Pullias, and G. Willard Collins among many others. The university established the Institute for Christian Spirituality in 2010.
On the heading for the institute we read this: "The Institute for Christian Spirituality nurtures the the discipleship of Christ's followers by cultivating a deeper awareness of and participation in the Holy Spirit's redemptive activity among us, within us, and in the world. We pursue this mission by exploring spiritually forming practices and facilitating the journey with others. Through spiritual friendships and spiritual direction." (2) (3)
In an open letter the director of ICS, Leonard Allen, says this about its mission: "ICS wants to partner with your church and provide resources that will positively affect the life of your congregation. Five offerings do this in different ways. We’ll share tools that help revitalize your sense of mission, manage conflicts that arise, renew your hunger for God’s Word, better attend to the spiritual life of your children, and introduce new practices (emphasis RM) that enrich a daily walk with God." The ICS has an ambitious outreach to all congregations of the churches of Christ with a number of tools such as Special Programs, the Nurture Conference and the Children's Spirituality Conference.(4) "You’ll also see ICS’s commitment to church leaders. Retreats for refreshment and equipping, a certificate programs focused on pastoral care, and an intensive program for those in senior leadership roles all minister to those who serve our congregations." (5)
SPECIAL PROGRAMS: The designated contact for "Special Programs" is Kris Miller. He states this regarding the purpose for the ICS Special Programs: "The institute has several offerings that will positively affect the life of your congregation. Through them we share a range of tools that can revitalize your sense of mission, manage conflicts that arise, renew your hunger for God's Word, better attend to the spiritual life of your children, and introduce new practices (emphasis RM) that enrich a daily walk with God". (6) These "Special Programs" include Healthy Churches, The Ministry of Reconciliation, Enter the Story, Pilgrims Together, The Ministry of Spiritual Direction, and Senior Minister's Sabbath. With the exception of the last two, these are all "road show" programs designed to held at the client's congregation. The latter two are held only on the Lipscomb campus.(7)
NURTURE CONFERENCE: This years "Nurture Conference" was held April 4, 2017. Here's the description: "The Nurture Conference, sponsored by Lipscomb University’s Institute for Christian Spirituality, brings nationally recognized leaders in Christian spirituality to a special event featuring keynote addresses, workshops, and a luncheon. Previous speakers include Randy Harris, Gordon T. Smith, Glandion Carney, Gary Moon, Chris Webb, John Ortberg, and Terry Wardle." (8) (9) This years speakers are John Mark Hicks and Chris Altrock. Hicks will speak on the neo-pagan fiction book and movie The Shack (c) entitled; "Meeting God at the Shack." The website describes the address as; "...how this well-known story impacted his (Hicks) own spiritual recovery, answering the question: how do wounded people come to believe that God is “especially fond of them”? (10) Altrock will speak on "Walking Down the Aisle with God." The website describes the address as; "...how a spirituality centered on what we believe about God only magnifies misery(emphasis RM), while a spirituality centered on what God believes about us hastens healing." (11)
CHILDREN'S SPIRITUALITY CONFERENCE: The website says little about this conference except: "Every three years hundreds of spiritual formation leaders, children's ministers, developmental psychologists, Christian educators, sociologists, and theologians from a broad spectrum of Christian traditions gather around the children's spirituality table to discuss child theology, best practices, sociological research, and ministry implications for nurturing the spiritual formation of children." (12)
To hear and see for yourself past material presented by the ICS, go to this link: http://www.lipscomb.edu/ics/online-resources
For more information on the direction, philosophy, and theology of the ICS director, Leonard Allen, you can watch three videos of his presentation at last years Pepperdine Lectureship. The first 8 minutes of video 3 are especially instructive:
(3) These two statements are very precise and purposeful using both words and phrases that are full of ambiguity and self definition cast in post-modern, post-Christian, and post-Restoration molds in the neo-Gnostic tradition set forth by Brian McLaren who has a continuing and profound influence on DLU. (RM)
(9) Who are these people? Randy Harris appears to be the only one of this group with any connection whatsoever with the church of Christ. All the rest do not. Gordon T. Smith is a Nazarene, Gladion Carney is associate rector at St. Peter's Anglican Church in Birmingham, AL and goes by the title "reverened," Gary W. Moon is an interdenominationalist affiliated with Westmont College of Santa Barbara whose faculty according to their website, "...who participate in many different churches..," Chris Webb is a Benedictine Anglican Priest, John Oltberg is an ECO Presbyterian minister, and Terry Wardle is affiliated with the Church of the Brethren and founder of the Risen King Community Church in Redding, CA that adheres to a "repentance and faith only" salvational scheme.
Images courtesy of: Wikipedia Commons