The seminary for the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches is there to equip and educate future pastors, leaders, missionaries, counsellors and teachers for ministry within the Mennonite Brethren constituency. This fall, one of the courses offered by the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary to equip future pastors and teachers and missionaries is listed on the CMU 2013-14 COURSE TIMETABLE:
BTS-5960M Being with God in Stillness and Scripture (1.0 credit hour) This course will draw on biblical, historical and experiential resources for developing a conversational relationship with Jesus Christ through the practices of stillness, and `sacred reading’ of Scripture (lectio divina). Students will complete several assignments after participating in a one-day workshop. (In 2013 this workshop will be offered in two Ontario locations.)
Instructor: Andrew Dyck
Is this really a biblical practice?
The practice of stillness is a spiritual formation term that many Christians are using today to find God’s presence. It is different than finding a quiet place away from noise and distractions to meditate on scripture. It is referring to the silence that is found by achieving a mystical stillness of the mind.(1) One method used by those who practice contemplative spirituality to get into this place is called Lectio Divina, a practice that has been kept alive in the tradition of Benedictine monastics that involves emptying the mind of all thoughts, focusing on the breath and repeating a word or small phrase. The “presence” found in the resulting “silence” is actually an altered state of consciousness.(2) The danger is that the voice and presence found in the silence may not be God’s.
Where in the Bible are we taught to find a relationship with Jesus Christ through any such practices?
Even Richard Foster, a well known promoter of contemplative prayer, warns about this kind of prayer and says that it is not for the novice…
“At the onset I need to give a word of warning, a little like the warning labels on medicine bottles. Contemplative prayer is not for the novice. I do not say this about other forms of prayer. All are welcome, regardless of proficiency or expertise, to enter freely into adoration and meditation and intercession and a host of other approaches to prayer. But contemplation is different. While we are all precious in the eyes of God, we are all not equally ready to listen to God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all embracing silence…
I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as supernatural guidance that is not divine guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on the nature of the spiritual world, we do know … there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way!
… But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection…” (page 156 – 157, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home)
Even though this is not backed up anywhere in scripture, future pastors, leaders, missionaries, counsellors and teachers will be taught by the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary that this is a biblical way to pray. How much farther will the practice of stillness and lectio divina spread to the Mennonite Brethren constituency? It’s already everywhere. Take a look around. And if the Spirit of God convicts and inspires you to speak out, do not remain silent. There’s already enough of that!
Who Goes There?
by Pastor Larry DeBruyn for Contemplative Spirituality
Encountering voices in the quiet of contemplative prayer.