Is Edge Venture Biblical?

Is Edge Venture Biblical?

My name is David Bovenmyer and I am a co-pastor of Stonebrook Community Church in Ames Iowa. I have been a pastor for over 40 years, serving churches in Iowa and Maryland and planting Riverbend Church in East Lansing Michigan. I also serve on the Executive Committee and the Doctrinal Committee of Great Commission Churches, helping to lead an association of approximately 70 churches and ministries in the United States.

In the fall of 2011, a close friend of mine invited me to attend Edge Venture, a men’s retreat in the Detroit area. I was greatly impressed by the weekend but, Michigan being so far away, did not return to staff until the fall of 2013 at the tail end of a trip to Michigan for another reason. It was at this weekend that I began to get a vision of how Edge Venture could help fulfill my passion to make disciples and build them into Christ likeness. I saw how powerfully the Holy Spirit affected men through the Edge ministry, touching their hearts at a depth that rarely happened at other Christian retreats. I thought “I need to bring my boys to this.”  So, in the spring of 2014, I went back, bringing my youngest son and a couple men from our church to help check out the potential value of the weekend. My son had a tremendous breakthrough as a hurtful, shame-producing event came to light that he had kept hidden from his parents and everyone. He now sees his Edge weekend as a turning point in his life and is enthusiastically supporting Edge and inviting others. The men from my church who went with me were also impacted by the weekend and wanted to bring others.

Over the next couple years, I returned to Michigan, bringing two more of my sons, who also found the weekend to be liberating in areas where they had felt “stuck” in their growth as believers.  Word spread to several churches in Iowa, and during this time over 25 men traveled from Iowa to Michigan to experience the weekend. A decision was made to attempt a weekend in Iowa, and in May 2016 the first weekend had 33 participants, followed by a second in September with 37 participants. One of the participants was my fourth son to attend. Edge was extremely helpful to him and has given him relationship with Christian men that he respects and enjoys.

Edge Venture calls itself an “experiential” weekend and as such is quite different from the typical intensive-teaching men’s weekend that I was used to. From my first weekend on it was obvious that the gospel of the grace of God and the cross and resurrection of Christ were at the very center of the weekend. Yet I knew that a few of the processes used at Edge originated with non-Christian men’s retreats and the question arose in my mind as to whether Edge Venture is Biblical. This is a very important question to me as studying theology is one of my passions.  I don’t want to have anything to do with things that undermine the Bible or undercut the gospel.  Having thought long and hard and having evaluated each process, I have concluded that what happens at Edge is strongly Biblical, which I will detail below. I have not found anything to be unbiblical—contradicting Biblical truth or practice.

What is the goal of Edge Venture?

In my perception the goal of Edge Venture is to make and build disciples by helping men connect more deeply with their own hearts, with other men, and with the Lord. In our first Iowa Edge weekend two men gave their lives to the Lord, one the father-in-law of a staff man who had prayed for him for many, many years. And on our second Iowa weekend I was able to lead a man to Christ. We have had over thirty men from our church attend Edge and almost all of them will testify that the weekend moved them significantly forward in their efforts to follow the Lord.

What are some of the clearly biblical elements at Edge?

  1. Confession: The weekend is designed to bring a man face to face with what is not working in his life and face to face with his failures and sins. I am always amazed at how consistently this happens, yet in a way that is not overly shaming or humiliating (James 5:16, 1 John 1:9).
  2. Claiming forgiveness in Christ: The gospel is at the center of the weekend and nothing thrills my soul on these retreats more than seeing men come clean in ways they never have before and seeing them find the tremendous release that comes with understanding and accepting the forgiveness of Christ (1 John 2:1-2, Romans 5:1, 8:1).
  3. Repentance: Not only do men confess their sins and find forgiveness in Christ, but consistently they also come away from the retreat with hope and resolution to turn away from evil and follow Christ more strongly (2 Corinthians 7:8-11).
  4. Humility: I have found the men who lead and staff Edge Venture to be humble servants, dedicating their time and energy and prayers to the men who attend. All staff men serve without pay.  Their humble, servant attitude is obvious and contagious, modeling a form of manliness that some men have never seen before (Luke 6:40).
  5. Letting go of anger and bitterness: Several processes give men the chance to address anger and bitterness and encourage them to let it go and to let God be the judge and avenger. The Bible teaches that anger and bitterness can be a hidden root that affects the entire plant. Bitterness can spread throughout the church and the world, defiling many. I’ve seen men come to Edge whose anger and bitterness has defiled their wife, their kids, their church, and their community. Often such men have tried over and over again to forgive and let go of their anger, yet the anger remains and keeps erupting. Several Edge processes can powerfully help a man reach down into his heart, find the hidden root of bitterness, and pull it out at the roots by forgiving at a deeper level than ever before (Hebrews 12:15).
  6. Mourning losses: Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matthew 5:40). None of us like to mourn, yet mourning is necessary if we are to get past our losses and return to joy. Edge gives men an opportunity to do this. A man on my first weekend was having great difficulty connecting emotionally with his wife and children. This was so distressing to his wife that she was thinking of separating. He had made genuine efforts to connect more deeply, but it seemed that something inside was blocking or hindering this. During an Edge process, a memory came to mind; in my perspective this was Spirit-led.  He remembered the death of his younger brother, who had died when this man was ten. During the process, he was able to mourn the loss of his brother, say goodbye, receive comfort from God and his Edge brothers, and gain a perspective of his brother’s death that was much closer to God’s perspective than before.  He went back to his wife and family, an emotionally freer man, able to better connect because the inner pain that his heart had been hiding had been comforted.
  7. Receiving God’s comfort: Paul said that God comforted him in all his affliction so that he would be able to comfort those in any affliction with the comfort he himself had received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).  Men often receive great comfort from the Lord and from other Edge men during the weekends, which deepens their appreciation for the love of God and fills them with compassion for others who are hurting.
  8. Weeping with those who weep: Paul commands us to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). The openness and authenticity of the Edge environment provides great stimulus for this to happen. Doing this is often powerfully encouraging, comforting, and affirming.
  9. Encouraging and providing accountability: Men are challenged to choose a goal that would be a “stretch” for them and report back to a man of their choice for encouragement and accountability. In our church we have found that the openness and honesty fostered at Edge has, at least to a degree, carried over into our small groups[1] (Hebrews 3:13, 10:24-25).
  10. Bonding with other men: Many men have had difficulty bonding to their fathers or other male role models either because of an absent father or other factors. Edge has proven to be one step in some men’s journey as they step out of their comfort zone and attempt to truly connect with other men (1 Peter 5:1-7).
  11. Avoiding partiality: One of the rules at Edge is that men do not share their occupation with each other during the weekend. This has the wonderful effect of putting the men on the same level, encouraging oneness (James 2:1).
  12. Experiencing what is learned: In many of our churches, believers hear hundreds of teachings from the Bible, which is wonderful and vital. It is easy however, for men to hear the truth and not do it. During an Edge weekend, men are encouraged (never required) to step out and do the things they are learning (James 1:22-25).
  13. Exposing idolatry: Countless times at Edge weekends I have watched as the Spirit of God exposes either a low or unworthy conception of God or a heart that is wrapped around created things rather than the Creator. Some of the processes are designed to give the Spirit of God opportunity to do this and it very often happens (1 John 5:21).
  14. Learning from the Bible: Throughout the weekend the story of David’s life is presented, a story that includes many lessons for our lives. And a Christ-centered, gospel-centered message is given on Sunday morning (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
  15. Remembering the Lord: An opportunity is given for men to remember the Lord as we share bread and grape juice in communion on Sunday morning (1 Corinthians 11: 23-26).
  16. Worshiping the Lord in song: This also happens on Sunday morning, and often many eyes are filled with tears of gratefulness for what God has done for us in Christ and for what He has done during the weekend (Colossians 3:16).
  17. Changing from the inside out: Jesus said that man’s problems with sin are not primarily external, but stem from the heart (Matthew 5:17-20). He rebuked the Pharisees because they cleaned the outside of the cup and dish, but did nothing to clean up the inside (Matthew 23:25). In Romans 8, Paul rejoices that God has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell our hearts so that the fruit of the Spirit can flow out through us (Romans 1:-11, Galatians 5: 22-23). These scriptures make it clear that God wants to transform men and women from the inside out. It is my experience that greater authenticity, more honest confession, and greater attention to emotion[2] can be extremely helpful, in fact sometimes necessary, for change from the inside out to occur. How can we correct that which we have never fully acknowledged? It’s impossible.
  18. Using symbolism, imagery, and surprise: The scriptures tell the story of God creating a world and working to redeem that world after it rebelled against Him. That story is often communicated with striking images, symbols, and surprises. The climax of the story, the death and resurrection of the Savior Himself, was a surprise to all. We see that the prophets were often commanded to do things in symbolic ways to vividly communicate the message of God. This went to lengths that to us would seem extreme, such as going naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:2-4), lying for months on one side (Ezekiel 4:4-6), and marrying a prostitute (Hosea 1:2-4).  Perhaps God knows that we sometimes need striking images and surprises to get our attention. Edge Venture uses imagery (thoroughly wholesome) and the element of anticipation and surprise to get men’s attention and turn it to the Lord.  Maintaining this element of suspense and surprise is the sole reason for not fully informing participants regarding all aspects of the weekend. Nothing is kept secret for any other reason.
  19. Using story: God has revealed Himself in history and we have that revelation primarily in the form of story. God could have given a systematic theology, but in His great wisdom He chose to use story. Edge Venture also teaches using story, the story of David’s life and the grand story of God—creation, the fall, redemption, and future restoration—climaxing in the story of Jesus. During the weekend, men are given the opportunity to reflect on the story of their own lives in order to better understand how their life story fits in to the grand story of God as He works all things together for His glory and for the good of those He loves (Romans 8:28-30).
  20. Challenging men toward Christlikeness: All these elements work together to create an extremely challenging retreat. Consistently I receive feedback from men who attend Edge Venture that this retreat challenged them more than any other men’s retreat they have attended, calling them to be the man of God that He created and redeemed them to be (Colossians 1:28-29).

These are some of the biblical goals and practices of Edge Venture. The way these goals are achieved is somewhat different from what happens at many men’s retreats, but God allows diversity in the methods and forms that we choose. All that we do must be firmly founded on the scriptures and the gospel of Christ, yet the scriptures are largely silent regarding forms and methods. Perhaps this is because God knew that the most effective forms and methods would vary from culture to culture and generation to generation. So we have freedom to use forms and methods that are most effective in our culture, as long as they do not undermine or circumvent scriptural commands or principles.[3] In reality, this is a difficult line to walk, but Jesus said that one way we can judge is by the fruit. After an Edge weekend, I see such things as men breaking free from pornography addictions, men spending time with their wives and children rather than obsessing over sports, men bonding with one another and with their families at deeper levels, men who were once secretly angry at God now truly excited to serve Him, men who have grown in confidence in their position in Christ, men who are better leaders and connectors and lovers.

One challenge I experience as a pastor is that it is often hard for men to really engage as active participants in their church and in the discipleship process. Edge Venture challenges each man to go back to his local church and actively participate and to be the man that God wants him to be as a leader of his family, an active participant in the church, and an involved member of his community.

Not every man who attends a weekend has a breakthrough, but I’ve seen so much good fruit that I am sold on the weekend’s effectiveness to greatly help in making and building disciples. Edge venture is designed to invite a man to look within, to discover what is not working, what is broken inside, and to seek the Lord for healing and transformation. There is really nothing magical about the weekend. It’s simply putting into practice Biblical principles that are sometimes ignored or practiced at a shallow, comfortable level. The weekend challenges men to go deeper with God and to give Him all of their hearts and lives.

These are my perspectives of Edge Venture and its Biblical elements and are my opinions alone. I am not been authorized to officially represent Edge Venture. Neither do my opinions necessarily represent those of Stonebrook Community Church or of Great Commission Churches.

If you have any questions or concerns feel free to call me; I would love to talk. I could also refer you to other pastors who have seen the power of applying these Biblical principles on an Edge weekend. You are always welcome to come check out Edge in person.

David Bovenmyer

2611 Woodview Drive

Ames, IA 50014

dave@stonebrook.org

[1] In our church we have chosen to limit our Edge small group to once a month in order not to undermine our existing small groups, which we see as a priority.

[2] I have written on the subject of emotion for Great Commission Church’s leadership training in Emotions and the Heart. This paper does not reflect the position of Edge Venture in any way, but only my own.

[3] I have written a paper that is used in Great Commission Church’s leadership training entitled The Bible and Psychology, Sociology, Science, and Business Principles which states my views on the integration of the Bible and other disciplines. This paper does not reflect the positon of Edge Venture in any way, but only my own.

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2 Responses

  1. I was quite skeptical and leery when I attended my first Edge Venture. At first, I felt it’s methods were more pop-psychology and even eastern philosophical in nature, than Christian.
    As the weekend moved along, though, I began to not only see just how rooted in biblical truth this weekend was, but how much I needed to be liberated from wounds and sins that were affecting my life.
    I liken the impact and processes of Edge Venture with Jesus’ restoration of Peter. Jesus pulled Peter aside and they experienced an intimate conversation together. Jesus dealt with Peter’s wound through a back-door approach of questioning his love for Him. Actually, buried deep within Peter, it was the question plaguing Peter ever since his embarrassing failure to stand up for Jesus.
    This restoration process was highly emotional for Peter, and in the end extremely liberating. He would not have been the kind of leader that God needed him to be if it wasn’t for his experiential walk with Jesus.
    For those willing to let Jesus speak into the broken parts of their life, Edge Venture is an experience with Jesus that they will NEVER forget.

    I affirm Pastor Bovenmyer’s points on the biblical nature of this weekend and encourage all men to humble themselves and walk with Jesus through an Edge Venture.

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