Christian author illustrates Christology through his personal experience in a rare return to Newberg

About 40 years ago, Richard Foster had a life-changing encounter with God as a student at George Fox University.

While on a walk during a highly frustrating time in his life, Foster had his first conscious experience of “the light and love of Jesus as true shepherd and eternal prophet.”

Foster remained in Newberg for a few years after college, pastoring at Newberg Friends Church before moving to Colorado, where he settled to raise his family and become an acclaimed Christian SETH GORDON - Telling the story - Former Newberg Friends Church pastor and prominent Christian author Richard Foster speaks during a book signing with his son, Nathan, at Chapters bookstore July 22. Foster served as guest speaker at the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends annual conference last week at George Fox University.

In a rare visit back to Newberg last week, Foster came full circle, retelling the story while serving as the guest speaker at the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends annual conference at George Fox.

Foster gave an informal and light-hearted talk on how God works to transform the human personality in his first appearance July 22, then proceeded to present a more serious speech examining Christology — the field of study concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ and how that relates to the nature of God.

After recalling the first encounters of some prominent Christians, including George Fox and Indian Sadhu Sundar Singh, Foster noted that for most people, such experiences are much simpler and less grandiose. Being in Newberg he chose to share his own.

At that point in his life, Foster was extremely busy with schoolwork, duties at church and two jobs. He often found himself frustrated that he didn’t have time for the social aspects that enriched the lives of others around him and those emotions were affecting the nature of his prayers.

One evening, he decided to break from his studies and take a walk.

“Under the moonlight, my complaining prayers began to settle down and I became more and more quiet until I was completely silent — a listening silence,” Foster said. “Then I heard the voice of the true shepherd.”

Foster heard the voice inwardly and paraphrased the message for the crowd that he was frustrated because he couldn’t have everything that he wanted, but that wasn’t what he needed.

“‘With me is fullness of life. If you learn to be with me, you will have a chance,’” Foster said, relaying the final words he heard in his heart. “That was it. There was no promise to change my life’s circumstances. There was no guarantee of prosperity. I came out of that experience with a new sense that I had been spoken to by the heavenly prophet.”

Foster had shared the story publicly just a few times before, once or twice in speeches and in his book “Sanctuary of the Soul.”

Shortly after, Foster was joined on stage by his son, Nathan, and Northwest Yearly Meeting Superintendent Becky Ankeny and the trio discussed how to recognize the voice of God.

Richard Foster said it should be distinguishable by its quality, spirit and content, or in his son’s words that it “smells like gospel.”

Foster also appeared at a book signing event with Nathan and GFU professor and author Paul Anderson at Chapters July 23 and spoke about the development of a life of confidence in his final appearance at the conference July 24.

Richard Foster said that most of his speaking engagements this year are done in support or connection to Nathan and his work as an author and sociology professor at Spring Arbor University in Michigan.

The trip was not only a chance for the father to connect with his past, but for the son to connect with Newberg, as the family moved from Oregon when he was just 4 or 5 years old.

“I was amazed at how many people — I don’t know whether they still live around the area or if they came in for some reason — I was able to connect with from school,” Richard Foster said. “Then in the mid 70s, I and others pastured at Newberg Friends Church, so there were a whole bunch of people, also many who were kids or teenagers, that I had spent a lot of time with through those years. Connecting with that whole world and re-establishing that was a whole lot of fun.”

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