following The Way: past, present and future



My Dear One,


This week instead of offer you something, I’m asking for a little something from you. I need you to help me think some things through, important things that I can’t quite seem to figure out on my own.


A little over a year ago I relaunched following The Way as a blog. It’s been an honor that so many of you signed up from literally all over the world, read these weekly reflections, and tell me how much you get from them. The journey continues and I will continue to write these WayPosts.


But following The Way used to be much more than weekly reflections. It has existed in several other phases as a full “curriculum for Christlikeness.” Inspired by the call for such a resource by people like Dallas Willard and my own deep desire for something of much greater depth and comprehensiveness than currently exists from traditional Christian publishers, I set out to create a resource for small groups and individuals who seek to have deep, authentic, life-shaping conversations, supporting one another in centering the entirety of our lives on the Great Commandment: loving God with all our Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength.


Though I had used the concepts behind fTW in ministry since 2006, it was in 2011 I offered the first adult small group to eight people at the congregation I served. We met for two hours every week for eight months and went deep in our lives with one another. It was exhilarating. The next year I offered it again to another eight people and had another really meaningful year. People told me they’d never experienced anything like it and it was the single most life-changing thing they’d ever done through the church.


The following year, it spread across Texas and Louisiana thanks to a non-profit that picked it up for a season. That year I led a small group of clergy through the program and other group leaders did really innovative things with it in their own contexts. There was a group of college students, a group of retirees, and even an online group that engaged with it through the arts. The following year, I stepped aside from congregational work for a year and created the first fully-online version of fTW complete with videos for every week.


By then it was 2016, I was spent, and a lot of other things were going on in my life. And though I was proud of what I’d created, I still wasn’t satisfied with the quality. So I took it all down and shelved it for two years until I started writing again in 2018.


I continue to look at the older versions of the complete program from time to time and draft out what a new version could look like. I continue to wonder if there isn’t an audience for it somewhere: small groups in churches, small groups with no church affiliation, individuals who can’t find others nearby to do this deeper work with, people who have no desire to affiliate with any one faith group but still want to engage in the spiritual journey, and/or people who are interested in exploring the four core principles I realized are at the heart of every major faith tradition.


I now work full-time with young adults on a major college campus. They too seem to seek The Way, in their own way. And I want to help them and the hope their generation bears to find it. The search for The Way is a universal search. It dates back to the very first followers of The Way:


Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know The Way?” Jesus said to him, “I am The Way …”

John 14:5-6a


Jesus reveals to us that The Way is more than just a list of laws or guiding principles. It is something deeply incarnational, relational, embodied within both the individual and the community, the church.


And that’s why I can’t do this on my own. I need you, the community to help me think it through and create it. As I continue to work to redevelop and relaunch the larger program, what is it that you would hope to see? In particular, here a few questions I would really value your feedback on:


What does a deeper walk in the faith look like to you?


What kind of practical resources do you need (written workbook, teaching videos, podcasts, prayers and liturgies, online retreats, in-person retreats)?


Is this work you are looking primarily to do on your own or would you be more interested in working through it with a small group, either in person or online?


What are some of the primary questions or struggles you would want to see addressed as we explore what it means to love God with all our Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength?


An intriguing concept that someone once suggested to me is that, since we now have a generation of people who grew up reading Harry Potter and dreaming of being able to attend Hogwarts and become full wizards, perhaps fTW could serve as a kind of primer in the Christian path, beginning with the basics and going ever deeper into becoming as Christ. This idea seems audacious but exciting at the same time.


Can you imagine a need for such a thing, or better yet God’s desire for such a resource to exist?


Christianity goes much deeper than most people ever go with it. I want to unlock the full power of our faith for all people. Though I remain committed to leading the charge, it is clear that if fTW is ever to reach its full potential it will take much more than just me to make it happen, whatever it becomes. So today, on the roughly one-year anniversary of the re-launch, I’m asking you to help me by giving me your feedback on any or all of the above questions. Contact me and let me know your thoughts or, even better, share them in the comments section below with everyone.


If there ever was a time for a resource to exist that helps people go deep in their faith: to embrace a life of love, compassion, and sacrifice for others; to emphasize God’s call to respect the dignity of every human being; to push back against the hateful divisiveness that has infested our society and dialogue; and to help the church recommit to its core cause; it seems like now’s the time. I am ready for it. I hope you are too.


We’ll see where it all leads. In the meantime, know I remain grateful for your companionship as we set out on another year together …


following The Way,

Rich

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