Ancient Future Practitioners: Steve Woods

An email to Pete Greig (24/7 Prayer) led me to meet Jill Weber, which led me to meet Steve Woods via Facebook. One of the (very few) things I love about social media is the way it connects like-minded people together. Steve kindly sent me a paper he wrote ‘Where Streams Collide: The convergence of the Charismatic and Contemplative Streams in Spiritual Direction’ which was wonderful. Here’s a quote:

“There are many ways of expressing Christian faith in the world. From revival meetings to silent retreats. In our post-modern world, people are looking for authentic ways to express faith in God. Some are looking to ancient paths and practices while others are looking for the intervention of God in miraculous ways to demonstrate power and authority.”

I hope you enjoy getting to know Steve in this interview. You can also follow his blog here, and learn more about his community here.

Steve Woods, Adelaide
Interview via email, October 2019

You grew up in a conservative Baptist church, how did you encounter the Charismatic movement?

When I was a teenager in the mid 80’s our church called a new pastor, who had been influenced by the ministry of John Wimber.  He slowly led our church through transition to contemporary worship, understanding and use of spiritual gifts and listening to the Holy Spirit.  Eventually this tipped over to the use of gifts like tongues, words of knowledge and prophecy in our worship gatherings and small groups.  I remember this being an exciting time, but also a time when things were quite tense in the church community and there was some significant opposition.  Later, in the mid 90’s, I was personally involved in the so-called “Toronto Blessing” and from there into exploring healing, deliverance and a deeper experience of prophecy.

What was your experience with 24/7 Prayer?

I have always had a longing to pray more, but always found I was pretty poor at praying! I first encountered 24/7 Prayer through Pete Greig’s book, Red Moon Rising, in 2008 and was pleased finally find a book written by someone who also struggled with prayer. The church I was pastoring had been a praying church for a long time and was beginning to see numerous healing miracles take place.  I was introduced to 24/7 by some of our young adults who had been part of YWAM (Youth With a Mission).  We started hosting 24/7 prayer days and saw God begin to change us.  I was hijacked by Jesus one night in a prayer room and my life hasn’t been the same since.

As my connection and relationship with 24/7 Prayer and it’s leaders grew, I began to explore what it might look like to have a permanent prayer room operating in our church, with non-stop prayer 24-7-365! This led me on a journey to explore monastic practices and communities.  As I re-discovered the ancient, I began to get a vision for a community that embraced old and new.  I have been on that journey ever since.

What does it mean to be a part of the Order of the Mustard Seed?

As my relationship with 24/7 Prayer grew, I became very attracted to the thinking and work being done by some of the influential people in the movement to shape a modern, scattered, missional monastic order based on Zinzendorf’s Order of the Mustard Seed.

For me, as an extreme extrovert and activist (and Enneagram 7), I know I need boundaries and discipline in my life.  Being part of the OMS helps me live out rhythms of prayer and hospitality with a group of supportive and like-minded people all over the world.  Our vows are to be True to Christ, Kind to People and to take the Gospel to the Nations.  Shaping my life around these vows (and the practices of Prayer, Mission, Justice, Hospitality, Creativity and Learning) has been life giving.  I find myself learning to be still, to pay attention to small and slow things, and to see Jesus in the face of each person I meet.

I’d love to hear more how you’ve been influenced by Richard J. Foster’s Streams of Living Water, especially as your blog is titled ‘Where Streams Collide’.

I remember reading “Streams” when I was in Theological College and being quite fascinated by it.  My struggle with the book has always been which stream do I fit into?  I saw bits of myself in most of the streams, although perhaps with stronger preferences in some.

A few years ago, as we were launching into establishing our new community, I was talking with a friend and he asked me where I saw myself fitting in Foster’s 6 Streams.  As I thought about it, and about my more recent faith journey, I responded, “I think I sit in the middle of all of them.”  It was a deep moment of revelation for me, and I realised that where streams “collide” there is often turbulence and contest.  I have often felt like that in my life; that there is action, turbulence and foaming when I explore my own spirituality and practice.

That revelation has led me over the past few years to explore what it is like to live in a place of the streams colliding – where old meets new, silence meets ecstasy, justice meets contemplation – and perhaps forge a new vision of a community that can’t be siloed easily.  Perhaps that’s what Jesus was after?

What led you to become a Spiritual Director?

As I was reflecting on the new community we were seeking to form, I clearly heard God say I needed to explore the difference between being a pastor (leading a church) and an abbot (leading a prayer community).  I was quite taken aback by this. I knew how to be a pastor – I had been doing that for over 20 years.  I could run a church, cast vision, preach, arrange rosters, develop goals and budgets – all the important things!  If I was honest, I could do all of that without necessarily involving God at all.  I was skilled, theologically educated and privileged.

Being an abbot was altogether different.  It meant curating space for others, becoming more stable and developing personal and community rhythms that were both challenging and inviting.

It was in this space, during a pilgrimage to a couple of 24/7 Prayer Monastic Communities in Canada in late 2016 that I sensed the call to join a formation program for Spiritual Directors.  I wanted to do it properly, and I was pleased that Tabor College in Adelaide was offering a Graduate Diploma in Spiritual Direction.  It was a rigorous formation program, with a real focus on practical experience on theological reflection.  I am grateful for the way God has shaped me through this and for the staff at Tabor who allowed my experiment and explore what a charismatic-justice-evangelical-missional-contemplative-spiritual director might look like.

You and your wife Vicki lead SoulSpace, a new-monastic community. What is your vision for that?

God gave us the vision for SoulSpace (and the name too) in 2013.  In early 2014 we stepped out of a long-term Senior Pastor role to establish a new-monastic community.  It has been the hardest and yet most rewarding thing we have done.

Our little group is focussed on discovering Jesus in our neighbourhood – a low socio-economic community filled with people from a multitude of backgrounds including a high number of refugees, first nations people, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists and many people stuck in poverty and addiction.  We are very close to Adelaide’s notorious red-light strip, where streetwalkers are common and so are assaults, crime and drug use.

And here, in the midst of that, we are praying, creating space through hospitality and seeking to love our neighbourhood.  We are partnering with our local community centre and developing good relationships with local community development workers and local government.  We have started a regular pop-up coffee event each Saturday Morning at the Community Centre called Random Acts of Coffee as way to meet our neighbours and extend hospitality.  We have trained baristas who make excellent coffee and we often have toast or other simple food to give away as well.  This has recently developed into a place where others are joining in and starting to bring food.  The other week we had an Aussie/Turkish/Afghan/Albanian Feast one Saturday as people just brought food to share. 

We envision these Saturdays turning into a regular market and swap-meet where neighbours meet and share their food, fruit, vegetables and skills to help the neighbourhood flourish. 

Ultimately, we want to see people experience the transforming love of Jesus and the freedom, healing and joy he brings!

Lastly, I’d love you to contribute to my new Spotify playlist ‘A Live Tradition’.

1. Hymnal: “When I Survey” by St Michael’s Singers
2. Golden Oldie: “Change My Heart Oh God” by Vineyard Worship
3. Millennium and Beyond: “Adoration” by Brenton Brown
4. Ancient Future Fusion: “You Are My Vision” by Rent Collective
5. Behold Something New: “Stir a Passion” by Worship Central, Josh Gauton
*Bonus Song: Monastic/Choral/Instrumental: “Crown Him with Many Crowns” by Huddersfield Choral Society.

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