In spring 2010, Highland Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C., hosted a three-part series of conversations on unanswered prayer. The following is an excerpt from a panel discussion with congregation member and spiritual director Steve Imbach and author of Can You Hear Me? Brad Jersak, hosted by pastors Andrew Dyck and J Janzen
It is not surprising to see spiritual director Steve Imbach interviewed by this MB pastor. In 2002, the MB Herald reported that…
“Andrew Dyck of King Road MB Church in Abbotsford, B.C. was awarded a Study Grant for Pastoral Leaders given out by The Louisville Institute. He was one of only 40 pastors from across North America to receive the award in 2002, out of 236 applicants…
Dyck also joined nine other MBs to begin a two-year series of retreats and spiritual direction under the leadership of Steve Imbach, focusing on prayer, listening to God and discernment; this experience is intended to prepare them to give spiritual direction to others.”
-Mennonite Brethren Herald • Volume 41, No. 14 • August 2, 2002
MB pastor wins sabbatical award
It was only a matter of time until this spiritual direction led by Imbach would lead to more contemplative spirituality and eventually go mainstream in the Mennonite Brethren churches.
Steve Imbach co-founded the contemplative SoulStream (soulstream.org) for those seeking a contemplative community through spiritual direction training, retreats and courses in the Vancouver area. One of the organizations that Soul Stream links to is Fresh Wind Press, which specializes in the “Listening Prayer Resources” of Brad and Eden Jersak (read more about Soul Stream here). In 2008, the MB Herald promoted a retreat for pastors in the BC MB Conference led by Soul Stream founders Steve and Jeff Imbach (see Contemplative Mennonite Retreats). More recently, Steve Imbach taught Lectio Divina at the MB’s Artisan Inhale/Exhale series (see here). This year Soul Stream promoted a three day retreat led by Rob Des Cotes on the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises (see here) as well as breathing lessons and a contemplative retreat at the Stillpointe hermitage. This background in contemplative mysticism is only briefly revealed in Steve Imbach’s comment as quoted by the MB Herald article (regarding prayer, listening and stillness):
Steve: “I think we need to cry out our disappointments and hurts and sufferings and joys, but we can’t manage the response we get. We can’t control it.
If I need to change what I’m praying, usually it comes by being still with God and listening….”
Brad Jersak’s description of prayer in this MB conversation reveals in more detail the roots of his mystical beliefs:
Brad: “Here’s how I do it. In my heart, I kneel with Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, and instead of watching the circumstances for my cue, I try to watch Christ as his prayer shifts. So when I’m especially desperate, and I’m praying for someone I deeply care about, I see Jesus’ agony, but I don’t get stuck, because he moves from agony to comfort to hope to promise. I just try to stay in sync with him….
…because when I see Jesus go to peace – even though nothing has changed “out here” – I’m like, If he’s at peace, maybe I can be, too.
I’ll ask, “Why are you so peaceful?” Then I’ll see what he says….
…I used to see myself begging before the throne. Now I see myself as a child on God’s lap. Ephesians says we are now seated with Christ in heavenly realms (2:6), and elsewhere we’re told the enemy and the world are God’s footstool (Acts 7:49). By seeing myself on God’s lap, it’s an acknowledgment of my littleness – but what a safe feeling!
…I would encourage people to ask Jesus, “Who are you?” and just let God say who he wants to be for you these days.”
Jersak is known for teaching a form of visualization called Listening Prayer where Jesus comes into a painful memory and appears to the hurting person, offering healing through (extra-biblical) words and actions in the person’s imagination. This method of visualization prayer is further discussed in a teaching Jersak did last year on Listening Prayer that can be watched here:
Brad Jersak: Can You Hear Me?
At approximately 20 minutes into this video Jersak begins leading the church congregation in a guided visualization exercise. Using John’s vision of the throne room of God (from the book of Revelation), Jersak guides his listeners to step into the scripture passage with all five senses and imagine themselves snuggling into the lap of Jesus on the throne.
The Bible does not teach that we can bring ourselves closer to God through our imaginations, but that we are brought near to God through the finished work of Christ. (See OUT OF YOUR MIND: MEDITATION AND VISUALIZATION by Marcia Montenegro.) In fact, visualization is just another occult technique which has been Christianized in the same way that emptying and stilling the mind is now considered a Christian practice (called centering/contemplative prayer).
To see what others have written about Jersak’s teachings on listening prayer in the recent past, click on the following links:
Evaluating Listening Prayer and Brad Jersak
Something new about “Listening Prayer” and Brad Jersak…
Wellsprings or Muddy Streams?
Read a review of Brad Jersak’s book Can You Hear Me?, HERE.
Jersak has also edited and published a book called Stricken by God?. This collection of alternative atonement theories, endorsed by emergent leader Brian McLaren, includes essays by Richard Rohr and Marcus Borg. Another project of Brad Jersak has been recording youtube videos with his friend Archbishop Lazar Puhalo of the Orthodox Monastery All Saints of North America (http://new-ostrog.org/). These can be watched by clicking here. Jersak and Puhalo are authors on the Clarion Journal of Spirituality and Justice (http://clarionjournal.typepad.com/).
Are the Mennonites being directly led towards ecumenical contemplative spirituality and occult practices in their own churches? This MB Herald article may be called “Disappointment in Prayer”, but discerning readers are more often finding disappointment in the MB Herald and the compromise it condones. The crumbling contemplative bridge and its techniques will disappoint, but the precious Corner Stone, who bridged the gap to reconcile us to the Father, will never disappoint.
For this is contained in Scripture:” BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 1 Peter 2:6 (NASB)
The Koinos Bridge to Contemplative Spirituality
Typing with my feet…
Visualizing ourselves into the Throne Room of Heaven?
UPDATE Spring 2013:
As an example of where contemplative spirituality can lead, 10 years after beginning a two-year series of retreats and spiritual direction under the leadership of Steve Imbach, Andrew Dyck has since moved on to Canadian Mennonite University where he is teaching a spring syllabus on spiritual formation at St. Benedict’s Retreat and Conference Centre.
BTS-5332 Spiritual Formation for Ministry: (3.0 credit hours) This experience-based seminar will provide students with opportunity to develop pastoral/ministerial identity and self-understanding through the use of personality tests, readings, reflection papers and class discussions. It will provide a forum for faith sharing and for developing self-awareness of gifts and competencies. Particular attention will be given to spiritual formation for ministry.
Prof. Andrew Dyck; May 6-10, 2013
Students in this seminar course will be guided through various spiritually formative practices. As a complement to this learning approach, one day of the course will be held at St. Benedict’s Retreat and Conference Centre. This will be Tuesday, May 7–including the evening. Each student will be charged a ‘lab fee’ to cover the cost for this retreat day. See the professor for details.
This also shows where an important partnering decision made by the Mennonites in 2010 has since led them. See Partnership or Compromise? St. Benedict’s Retreat Centre is where Rachel Twigg-Boyce completed her training as a spiritual director (see WHY IS THE MB HERALD FEATURING “A RADICAL PRAYER GATHERING” LED BY RACHEL TWIGG-BOYCE).