WAYPOINTS & 16 Waypoints in a Spiritual Journey

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2010.

A New Roadmap for a New Era

Engel’s and Clinton’s scales provide helpful visual reminders in a world increasingly comfortable and dependent upon symbols and icons.[i] But both Engel and Clinton are still rooted in a modernist world where inflexible stages and lock-step phases rob the journey of outreach of its elastic and local flavor. Who would want to blindly follow someone else’s travelogue, and not experience surprises, scenic byways and flexibility in route?

A new postmodern era is emphasizing the importance of learning through experience, not just from books.[ii] These are people who want to experience the journey, not just live vicariously through someone else’s diary. For these people a new roadmap is needed, a map that draws from the best of Engel and Clinton, but also emphasizes how each traveler experiences the journey uniquely. This new map must emphasize that there are common waypoints that each traveler will encounter though at different times and with different facets. Our new map must focus less on stages and phases, and instead concentrate on the natural experiences that the traveler will encounter on the journey.

To begin to chart this new route, let us see how (in Figure 3) both Engel and Clinton contribute insights, but on different segments of the journey.

FIGURE ©Whitesel WAYPOINTS A.3 Engel & Clinton p. 231.jpg As seen in Figure 3, both scales have their strong points. By combining the two, taking out some overlap, updating terminology, and focusing on the process rather than static stages/phases, a new roadmap can emerge that is more attune to today’s traveler. Therefore to provide a more elastic and organic alternative, I suggest that the stages and phases become less prominent, and they be replaced with moveable waypoints that give a general understanding of where one is within a certain segment of their journey. Figure 4 then is a new scale, born from the above,[i] but with emphasis upon indigenous waypoints for tracking the traveler’s progress.

FIGURE ©Whitesel SPIRITUAL WAYPOINTS Map A.4 p. 232.jpg

[i] For examples of the widespread use of icons in contemporary communication, see Whitesel, Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations (Abingdon Press, 2006).

[ii] See also the author’s analysis of postmodernal church patterns in Inside the Organic Church and Preparing for Change Reaction. Especially note Chapter 3 on change and culture in the latter volume.

Excerpted from Bob Whitesel, Spiritual Waypoints: Helping Others Navigate the Journey (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010), pp. 231-232.

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OUTREACH & Santa Cruz, CA motto: “Keep Santa Cruz Weird” inspires Dan Kimball.

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/19/15.

A former student joined an elective course I taught with Dan Kimball in Santa Crux, CA.  And the student made the following insightful analysis of how Dan stays connected with the libertine lifestyles of Santa Cruz.  In fact, Santa Cruz is very proud of their oddness and eccentricity (there is a popular bumper sticker they sell in Santa Cruz that states “Keep Santa Cruz Weird”). The student wrote:

Dr. Whitesel,  One of the most impacting methods of understanding Santa Cruz that Dan mentioned were the relationships he maintained with the “weird” citizens of Santa Cruz.  He mentioned having coffee with a man who vehemently resisted and rejected Dan’s stance online concerning homosexuality.  We also met Susan Harding, a unbelieving professor at UCSC who studies churches simply from a sociological perspective.

Dan regularly meets with people who do not hold to the same tenets of reality or religion.  In doing so, he is constantly giving himself exposure to different worldviews, to different ways of thinking, to different perspectives and to different cultures.  In doing so, he is able to identify that culture’s needs, its language, and its symbols.  This enables him to effectively create a church that is unique, maintains its faithfulness to the Gospel, while still communicating in a language and through symbols that reach out to other cultures.

When Dan asked in class, “How many of you regularly meet with non-Christians” I could not raise my hand.  It is my goal now to find a few to hang out with!  Thanks Dan.  Thanks Dr. Whitesel!  – Joel L.


Here is how I responded:

Glad to help.

During that course we also had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Susan Harding: http://anthro.ucsc.edu/directory/details.php?id=28 .  One of her research foci is “born-again Christianity” (ibid.) and she has penned a book titled “The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics” (Princeton University Press, 2000). It looks at the philosophical outlook and influence of Jerry Falwell.  To have a person volunteering with Vintage Faith Church on her faith journey was remarkable (but it shouldn’t be 🙂

What I found equally powerful, was that she said the love and community she found at Vintage Faith Church had changed her perspective of where she was in her own spiritual journey.  As a result, she helped others get in touch with their spiritual side by serving at Vintage Faith Church. Thus, while she was not leading persons across the waypoint of conversion, she was leading people further along their spiritual journey (across more waypoints) to connect with their spiritual side.  A student in the class made this point, saying “Dr. Harding is actually helping spiritual travelers cross Waypoints 16, 15 and maybe even 14.”  This is why looking at the spiritual journey as a series of waypoints is helpful.  We can see that many people are helping people move along the journey, and that just because they are not helping people cross the “conversion” waypoint, doesn’t mean they are still not helping people with their spiritual quest.  I look at such guides as helpers for a part of the journey. And, I hope that as they travel more on their own personal journey, they will be helped by others further along the trek, to see that the ultimate designation in my view is a return to fellowship with God made possible only by Jesus Christ.  Spiritual Waypoints help us visualize better the process the Holy Spirit is using.

FIGURE ©Whitesel WAYPOINTS Map