The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith portrays the life of faith in dynamic rather than static terms. It recognizes that what faith means can change over time. Janet O. Hagberg and Robert A. Guelich outline a six stage journey of faith:
- Recognition of God
- The Life of Discipleship
- The Productive Life
- The Journey Inward
- The Journey Outward
- The Life of Love.
The authors emphasize that these stages don’t reflect a greater closeness to God as one progresses but rather a different experience of the God with whom we all enjoy the same access. Nor are these stages that we progress through once and for all but rather that we may cycle through these again and again.
Most significant in this book is the author’s discussion of “The Wall” during Stage 4. During “The Wall” our will meets God’s will and the challenge is whether we will flee from the discomfort of this stage or lean into this process and allow God to lead us into surrender and awareness of our acceptance and God’s unconditional love. One of the things I also appreciated in The Critical Journey related to this concept is the discussion of stage 4 when questioning and doubt resurfaces. In my work with graduate students, I discover that this stage can coincide with grad school where the formational and intellectual engagement of grad school challenge the prior understanding of faith and practice formed in prior years. It is also interesting to me that the authors observe that most churches and ministries do well with stages 1 to 3.
So one of the real questions for me is, “What does it mean for our ministry to be a stage 4 to 6 ministry–one that doesn’t sacrifice the discipleship and mission emphases of earlier stages, but addresses the less conventional but vital work of stage 4, the Wall and beyond?” As you have thoughts and/or models to share, please do such in the comments section.
Editor’s note: A few related pieces by Bob Trube which are of interest with regard to this topic:
- Critical Junctures in the Spiritual Formation of Graduate Students and Young Faculty — Emerging Scholars Network
- Intellectual Hospitality or Hostility? — Bob on Books
- Living Attentively in the Academy — The Well
- Seven Habits of the Highly Effective Christian Graduate Student — Emerging Scholars Network