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Jun1FriSalvationist Phil Wall on Infinitum, an online discipleship resource. June 1, 2018 by Lt-Colonel Jonathan Roberts
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
Phil Wall is a well-known figure in the Salvation Army world. In recent years, he’s been involved in developing Infinitum, an online discipleship resource that’s used by thousands of people around the world.
“The catalyst was really a hunger for greater depth,” he recalls. “I was talking to a friend, Ian Mayhew, about how we make sure that, at this stage of our lives, we’re still accelerating in faith rather than decelerating. Then we got into a conversation with Danielle Strickland and Major Stephen Court from Canada, and we thought the greatest need for our lives was not more activity, but more spiritual depth.
“We also thought about how to develop a robust spirituality that we can take to work with us—a spirituality that works Monday to Friday. We ended up formulating what is in effect a rule of life that has now defined and shaped our lives over the past three years.”
Although it was begun by Salvationists, Infinitum has spread far beyond the Army’s ranks.
“This journey is finding a resonance within a much broader churchmanship,” Wall reveals. “People don’t join anything; they just decide to share this journey and choose to relate to Infinitum in some way.”
The website has now had more than 82,000 page views and more than 12,000 new users. There are in excess of 2,200 registered practitioners in 45 countries. And it’s still developing, with plans for youth resources and improvements to the app.
“Originally the app was supposed to be a support to the website,” says Wall, “but the truth is people are increasingly mobile, so the prime means of engaging is through the app. We’re trying to update the app and get it to a level where it can deal with the amount of traffic it gets.
“We don’t know the full number involved, but anecdotally we think it’s in the tens of thousands. Many people are in groups that may have only one registered person. For example, we heard of a rehab unit that was engaging all 60 residents on the journey.”
Infinitum has three foundations: vision, virtues and vows. And there is a rhythm that involves connecting daily, weekly and monthly.
“The vision is following Jesus,” Wall explains. “The virtues are about our lives being shaped by loving God and loving others. The three vows are surrender, generosity and mission, and are where the rule of life hits the road every single day. I’ve been on this journey for three years now, and my first thought every morning as I wake up is: Lord Jesus, help me to honour you today and live a life of surrender, generosity and mission. That’s my first thought, not because I’m particularly spiritual, but because it’s been such an intentional focus for such a long time now.
“We chose those three vows for a number of reasons. Surrender is the life of holiness—this journey of living a holy life in an intentional way. Then we thought, in our materialistic, westernized world, there are few things more prophetic than generosity. Being generous with words, spirit, mind and action—with your resources, with your time, with your energy—it’s really challenging. Then, finally, mission: having an orientation toward the poor and the marginalized—the last, the least and the lost.”
Infinitum involves a daily connection with the resources to support surrender, generosity and mission. There’s also the hub, which is a weekly conversation with a group.
“Christianity is not a solo sport, it’s a team sport,” insists Wall. “That’s why the hub is so important, because personal change without genuine accountability is wishful thinking. Accountability provides the supportive and creative context whereby faith might grow.
“I’m in a hub with two blokes. We’ve been journeying in faith for a little while now, and it’s focused around the vows. Then there are these developmental questions that we ask each other, and which demand reflection and response.
“The vision is following Jesus. The virtues are about our lives being shaped by loving God and loving others. The three vows are surrender, generosity and mission, and are really where the rule of life hits the road every single day.”
“A hub might be three people or a larger group. What’s interesting are the different contexts in which they’re being used: some meet in pubs, some meet in coffee shops, some meet in their homes, some meet on Sundays. The thing that’s important is that people are in relationships with a measure of accountability. Most people don’t have anybody to confess their sins to. So we have to assume either they don’t sin or they have to hide their sin—and neither of those ends well.
“My view is that one of the reasons Jesus took Peter, James and John to one side at the mountain of Transfiguration and the Garden of Gethsemane was because he needed them. If the perfect, incarnate Son of God needed his mates to support him when he was challenged to follow the will of the Father, how much more do we!
“I think this whole thing of isolation, particularly of leaders, but of all of us, is a choice. You don’t have to be isolated. We weaken ourselves spiritually if we’re not in an accountable relationship where we have a safe place to confess our sin and be encouraged, supported and affirmed.”
As well as the daily connection and the weekly conversation, there’s a monthly element to Infinitum. Wall explains: “We have these monthly challenges that we share around the world. At noon on the 12th day of every month there’s a prayer focus. We pause and have a prayer agenda that we pray into and unite around.”
Wall is keen to emphasize that although the way Infinitum resources are provided is innovative, the content is not brand new. “When we started it we looked around and realized we hadn’t invented anything,” he says. “The stream that we find ourselves most relating to is what’s now called the new monasticism, which is finding expressions in all sorts of different ways: things like Renovaré and some of the movements linked to the historic monastic orders like the Secular Franciscan Order.
“You find some of these newer movements, which are focused on spiritual formation, have a strong social activism. So that’s where we find ourselves. They say there’s nothing new under the sun, but I think what we’re finding is a freshness in engaging with this rhythm of life, with this discipline of life, which is having a profound impact.
“Infinitum is the Latin word for ‘boundless.’ We’re invited into this boundless life of faith—this extraordinary, extravagant life of grace and goodness and generosity. I’ve been a follower of Jesus now for 34 years and I would say that, in terms of my growth and development, I’ve found it one of the most helpful things over all that time.”
Find out more by visiting infinitumlife.com.
Reprinted from Salvationist UK.