Archives For spiritual formation

I love hearing Ruth Haley Barton’s voice when I read her books.  I have been on nine retreats led by Ruth over approximately a two year period.  When I go to read her books, I can’t help but hear the inflections in her voice and her deep care for ministry leaders (for me!) as she teaches during retreat and as she types the words of the book.

It’s been too long since I finished my Transforming Community retreats and it’s been too long since I read one of Ruth’s books.  My stated goal (rule of life) at the end of my retreat cohort was to continue in certain rhythms that would allow me to live an unhurried life where I was able to enjoy God.  I have not kept my rhythms, my life continues to feel over-busy, over-stressed, and over-hurried, and as a result, I’m not enjoying God in those deep moments like I did on my TC retreats.  Those deep moments that I still long for, but feel impossible to attain in my regular life and ministry.

Then I picked up Ruth’s newest book, Invitation to RetreatWhat I love most about Ruth’s writing and teaching is it reminds me I’m not crazy to desire rest.  She of course uses more eloquent words than this, but you get my idea.  In the world of life and ministry, you are made to feel out-of-place, lazy, and slacking off if you aren’t cramming your life full of tasks, accomplishments, and striving.  Nor does it helped that I am hard-wired for this sort of achievement-based life. Continue Reading…

You can listen to Noah Filipiak’s “Behind the Curtain” Podcast interview with Kent Carlson on the Podbean Player below or you can subscribe to all “Behind the Curtain” Ministry Podcast episodes on iTunes. (Podcast listening tip: use the podcasts app on your smartphone and listen while driving, doing chores, or working out)

Noah Filipiak interviews Kent Carlson on what led him and his team to shift the seeker-driven megachurch he founded into a church of spiritual formation. A shift that led to around 1500 people leaving the church. Kent is the co-author of Renovation of the Church, a book that chronicles the journey of Oak Hills Church and its leadership. He was mentored by Dallas Willard and currently serves as Vice President of Leadership Formation for the North American Baptist denomination.

Connect with Kent on Twitter

An abbreviated version of this article was published on the Transforming Center’s website: What does transforming leadership look like for Pastor Noah Filipiak?  Here is the full version:


I love seminary.


I have one seminary degree and look forward to going back for more.


With that said, my experience in a Transforming Community has been the most important ministry leadership training I have ever received.  It’s not that it’s a competition between the type of things you learn in seminary and the type of things learned through the Transforming Community, it’s just very noticeable which ones are more emphasized in the Church today (and in my own ministry leadership life up to this point).  Noticeable due to the amount of pain and personal struggle I and so many other ministry leaders have endured in our untransformed selves.


I’ve seen the same concept true at the gym.  You often see people at the gym, usually fellow men, who are incredibly muscular.  Muscles on top of muscles and they are straining to build even more muscles.  I often wonder if these are NFL players or ditch diggers or some other occupation where this sort of strength would be beneficial.  Obviously the strength isn’t there for pragmatic reasons.  Meanwhile, as a former college track and cross country runner myself, I rarely see these muscle-bound titans hop on the treadmill or exercise bike.  Lots of muscle is great, but if it’s the only thing that’s ever focused on, a person can spend all that time in the gym and still be a very ineffective athlete.  After all, it’s pretty hard to be athletic if you can’t breathe!  There’s nothing wrong with being a bodybuilder or doing a lot of strength training, it’s just caused me to notice an interesting parallel to ministry training.

Continue Reading…

What does the Bible say about suffering?

Turning off the kitten videos and finding God in lament

I preached on Lamentations a couple of weeks ago, a book that rocked my world, and continues to rock my world.  Essentially Lamentations is the prophet Jeremiah weeping in sorrow over Israel (Judah) finally losing the Promised Land.  We’re talking the worst brutality on earth.  We’re talking people eating their own children brutality (Lamentations 4:10).  Taking place from 605-586 B.C., God brought in the Babylonians to destroy the land and take the Israelites into exile in Babylon (remember Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?  All that happened in exile in Babylon).  The devastation of the Promised Land wasn’t a random happening, it was all a part of the covenant (think ‘marriage covenant’) God had made with Moses in ~1400 B.C.  It was very clear (Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 28, et al.), gruesomely clear, that if Israel worshiped idols that this is what would happen to the land.

Most of the 900 years between the Mosaic covenant and Lamentations’ destruction of Jerusalem was filled with the exact thing God told the Israelites not to do: idol worship.  God would bring prophets to rebuke and warn the Israelites to stop worshiping idols, sometimes they would stop for a short period, but they’d always dive back in, usually worse than when they started.  As the centuries progressed, the warnings became more and more pronounced: God will take the Promised Land away if you continue this.

They continued.

God took the Promised Land away. Continue Reading…

at a crossroads behind the curtain ministry podcast noah filipiakRuth Haley Barton is the award winning author of 7 books and the founder of The Transforming Center.  Her book Sacred Rhythms won the Logos Book Award for Best Book Award on Spirituality and her book Invitation to Solitude and Silence won the Christianity Today Book of the Year Award for Spirituality.  In this interview, Noah Filipiak interviews Ruth about how to deal with success and failure, burnout, ego, ambition, technology, pace, false self and true self, finding who we truly are in Christ versus the facade strategies we have learned to protect ourselves, and much more.  Ruth and her Transforming Community team have extensive experience helping Christians and ministry leaders find their true self in Christ and are uniquely gifted and called to this essential work in today’s hectic, cluttered, performance-driven culture we live in.  If you’ve ever struggled with having a dry devotional time with the Lord and wondered if there was more to experience from God than you currently know, God has led you to the right person by now connecting you with Ruth Haley Barton and the Transforming Center.

I’m a relatively critical person and do not give out compliments flippantly.  No hyperbole, Ruth’s book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership has been the most transformative book for me as a Christian and a pastor that I have ever read.  Period.  I wrote about my experience with the book here.

I highly recommend that you read up on Ruth’s books and if you connect well with them and with this podcast interview, that you consider joining a Transforming Community, a cohort of 70 people who meet in the Chicago area over a period of 2-years for 9 quarterly retreats.  I’m currently in a Transforming Community (just finished retreat 2 of 9) and I highly recommend this process as an essential training piece for ministry leaders.  I had a great seminary experience and with all due respect to higher education, I would say that a Transforming Community is the most important training a pastor or ministry leader can undertake.

Listen to the Ruth Haley Barton interview here: (or subscribe on iTunes)

Ruth’s Books Referenced in Interview:

Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation – This is the book Ruth recommends to start with.  Get in touch with your spiritual desire and begin to get in touch with the spiritual practices that correspond with it.  It’s not an “ought to” to do these practices, it’s how to get in touch with your spiritual desire and move toward spiritual practices that are good for your soul.  Practices covered include: solitude, silence, prayer, Sabbath keeping, discernment, establishing a set of sacred rhythms, Scripture, and honoring the body.

Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence – If you’re feeling drawn to solitude and silence, Ruth acts as a spiritual director here.  She takes you by the hand and walk into solitude and silence together with you as a guide.  This is a very personal book for Ruth and her journey which reflects on a period of her life of being out of control and not being transformed.  Based on the story of Elijah.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Spiritual Practices that Nourish Your Soul and Transform Your Life – Connects the dots between solitude and leadership.  A false bifurcation has developed between solitude and action as if just those “contemplative types” practice solitude and silence.  This book says no, this is the key discipline for all in Christian leadership.  How are my private spiritual disciplines fueling my public life as a leader?  Based on the story of Moses.

Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community – This book lays out Corporate Leadership Discernment as a spiritual practice.  It teaches how to discern God’s will together at a spiritual level; how a leadership group can discern as a community how to do the will of God.  Solitude.  It looks at the question of what is the role of community in our transformation process?  Based on Emmaeus Road story.

Other resources mentioned in the interview: where you will find many articles written by Ruth and her team, along with information on Transforming Communities, and much more.

The End of Absence: Reclaiming We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael Harris