by Lauren Anderson

On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the Institute for Christian Spirituality will be hosting the Nurture Conference, an annual event focusing on soul care and spiritual formation. One of the featured speakers is Chris Altrock, the preaching minister at the Highland Church in Memphis, Tennessee.

Chris Altrock grew up in an unchurched home with his twin brother Craig in the small town of Cloudcroft, New Mexico.  He first encountered Jesus as a sophomore in high school when a senior at his high school named Gary invited his brother Craig and himself to church. Soon, they started attending church with Gary, and he continued to pour into them and study the Bible with the brothers. A year later, they were both baptized. Altrock continued growing deeper in his relationship with God in a campus ministry at the University Church of Christ while he was a student at New Mexico State University.

During the last ten years of his ministry at Highland, due in part to demanding external circumstances and in part because of his own intense internal hunger, Chris has intentionally engaged in many spiritually forming experiences. Two of these experiences have been a thirty-day silent retreat and a nine-month experience of Ignatian Exercises, where he gained training in spiritual direction and contemplative disciplines, which he now uses to train others in these same areas.

Chris still regularly engages in contemplative practices, particularly examen (the practice of reviewing the previous day to observe how God worked through that day), lectio divina (the act of slowly reading a portion of Scripture listening for the voice of God) and centering prayer. He also regularly participates in silence retreats.

At the Highland Church in Memphis, Chris is passionate about the church’s outreach ministries and the congregation’s spiritual formation. Highland has around thirty outreach ministries which focus on the needy in their community, their neighbors, and the nations. They reach into the lives of people as far away as the Philippines and China, and are as close as an elementary school two miles from the church.

Highland has adopted two public schools in Memphis – one in the suburbs and one in the heart of downtown Memphis. They are involved with HopeWorks – a nonprofit which provides job skills, life skills, and internships to the unemployed in Memphis, a city where one in four people live in poverty.  They are also partnered with  Agape – a nonprofit that provides tutoring, housing, mental health services, and job training for children and families in need in Memphis.

In addition to preaching at Highland since 1998, Chris is involved in spiritual direction and is the author of seven books, two of his most recent including Newsworthy: Nine Ways to Live the Good News Now and Ten Minute Transformation: Small Spiritual Steps that Revolutionize Your Life. He also leads contemplative retreats at his church and partners with Lawana Maxwell, the women’s minister at Highland, to provide classes that focus on deepening the spiritual lives of men and women at Highland and throughout the mid-South.

At the Nurture conference, he will share a message that contrasts a spirituality based on what we believe about God versus a spirituality centered on what God believes about us. Chris says “What we believe about God is important, but as we so often see in the Gospels, when the deepest root of our spiritual life is centered on what we believe about God, it often moves toward judging and critiquing what others believe about God. This spirituality then becomes a source of misery in a world that is already filled with misery. Jesus, however, modeled a spiritual life whose deepest root was based on what God believed about him – that he was God’s beloved. When our spiritual lives have this as a foundation – what God believes about us – it brings healing to us and through us.”

In addition to the keynotes,  the conference will also feature formative workshops, a panel discussion, and individual soul care appointments for spiritual direction and prayer.

To register for this impactful event, go to http://www.lipscomb.edu/ics/nurture-conference/registration. The conference fee this year is $29, which includes lunch. Groups of 4 or more are eligible for a 25% discount.

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