Photo: Resonate Global Mission
Deeper Journey
Photo by Resonate Global Mission

Going through the Deeper Journey process has helped a handful of Christian Reformed leaders in the Chicago area to draw closer to God and learn more about themselves, especially with the help of such spiritual disciplines as prayer, solitude, and contemplation.

“Learning to listen in prayer, both to my own soul and God's voice, was the space in which I peeled back the layers of my own behavior and identified root causes [of some personal struggles],” said Janelle Budord, organist at Wheaton (Ill.) Christian Reformed Church.

“In prayer, and with my small group hearing my experiences and supportively offering their observations, I have begun to learn what situations call for clarification, reflection, and courage. I think it is true generally that the most frightening thing anyone can do is face their own inner darkness.”

A Resonate Global Mission program, Deeper Journey helps to grow the spiritual life of pastors, church staff, ministry leaders, and others through a series of retreats, small-group gatherings, and times of worship held over the course of two years. For the past two years, Chicago-area leaders took part in the process with the help of a Sustaining Pastoral Excellence grant.   

“For me, going through Deeper Journey as part of this peer group has been helpful and encouraging to me on several levels,” said Rev. Mark Brower, pastor of Loop CRC in downtown Chicago.

“For a number of years now, I’ve been on a ‘journey’ of sorts in my own spiritual formation process, being drawn more to contemplative prayer and the mystical branch of Christian theology.”

Being a part of Deeper Journey and interacting with others, he added, has helped to enhance the process of spiritual growth for him. Before this, his journey mainly involved the help of books and his own personal development, but being part of the group, especially joining with other CRC leaders, he said, helped to him to “go deeper.”

“We’ve gotten to know each other well, and we’ve supported one another in significant decisions and challenges,” said Brower.

Deeper Journey gave Jon Hoekema, pastor of Horizon Community Church in Downers Grove, Ill., a chance to step out of the daily challenges of ministry for a time before he needed to get back into it.

He likens the experience to being helped, through rest and exercise, to build stamina for swimming in a pool.

“My soul has been conditioned, it has been put through the sprints, the treading, the stretches, and all of the training that is needed to not just tread, but to really swim. . . . It’s not about learning the disciplines for survival’s sake, although I needed that, but learning the disciplines so that I could swim in the direction God has for me.”

The spiritual disciplines include spending time reading the Scriptures and meditating on their meaning and importance; offering praise and adoration to God; reading and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; taking time to pray and listen to God; spending time away; and meeting with a community of others.

Rev. Tim Bossenbroek, pastor of Hessel Park CRC in Champaign, Ill., said he appreciated learning about and learning from the spiritual disciplines -- and he is sharing that with his church council and the congregation.

“Being part of our small group these past two years has been an important part of my life and spiritual development,” he said. “I have been particularly moved by simply witnessing the ways God has worked in the lives of members of our group.”

In addition, Bossenbroek said, “The Deeper Journey has taught me the benefits of solitude. . . . I was terrified on my first Deeper Journey retreat, knowing I would have to spend a whole afternoon in silence and solitude.”

He came to solitude feeling anxious and yet found that the time was too short. “Time in solitude enables me to face my fears and anxieties and then turn them over to God,” said Bossenbroek. “It makes me less anxious and more open to and aware of others.”