By Gerard Flanagan, news writer and photographer, Office of University Communications
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Dr. Scott Wigginton has always considered himself a systematic person.
So, the fact that his doctoral thesis was a 400-page work, carefully outlined and rich in footnotes and annotation, is no surprise.
However, his latest book, “Adventures to Godliness: Filling the Hole in Your Bucket List,” developed in anything but a systematic, orderly way.
“I started writing the first chapter, and then as I was writing the first chapter, God gave me the second chapter,” Wigginton said during a book talk on campus. “And as I was writing the second chapter, he gave me the third chapter.
“It was a really organic process, much different from what I would normally do.”
Wigginton, who serves as professor of pastoral ministries and counseling at Campbellsville University, explained his book came about during his 2019 sabbatical in Sydney, Australia.
“The book essentially emerged out of my lifelong passion for adventure and the belief that the story of Christian faith over two millennia is a story of God calling His people to exciting, often risky enterprises with unknown outcomes that require resilience, curiosity, and trust,” Wigginton said.
Only a couple months before Wigginton, who also serves as the university’s Master of Marriage and Family Therapy Main Campus liaison, got on a plane to begin his sabbatical, something occurred to him.
“It dawned on me one day that the two things I’m super passionate about are spiritual formation and adventure,” he said. “If you want to keep me talking late into the night, those are the two things.”
“Nobody had written anything on the role of adventure and spiritual formation. I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do. That’s the intersection where I want to work.’”
The central premise of his book, Wigginton said, “is that God wants to use adventures, both planned and unplanned, to form us spiritually.”
Wigginton explained how he decided on the subtitle for his book. Bucket lists, Wigginton said, can be empty if they’re not used to achieve a higher purpose.
“I was just struck with how empty and insatiable a bucket list can be unless adventures are in the service of a higher purpose,” Wigginton said. “In other words, a bucket list leaks. Filling the hole in the bucket list means recognizing that God desires to use every experience as an opportunity to form us spiritually.
“So, the role of adventure is about moving us forward on the road to Christlikeness as God trains us for eternity.”
Throughout the book, Wigginton sought to blend Scripture, practical wisdom and interesting personal stories to help readers think about the “theology of adventure” and understand the role of adventure in spiritual formation.
Wigginton said one of his favorite quotes is, “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
“The idea is that every opportunity in this life that you have to do something new, something risky, is an opportunity to prepare for the life to come,” he said.
Wigginton, one could say, has lived his life by that question. Some of his favorite adventures include climbing Mount Rainier in Washington state, riding his bicycle coast-to-coast and throughout much of Europe, paragliding in the Swiss Alps, hiking across the Grand Canyon, running the New York marathon and, of course, writing his latest book.
“I just love exploring new things, so, of course, getting to know new landscapes and countries through travel as well as getting to explore the inner worlds of new people I meet and persons I counsel with is incredible,” Wigginton said.
Several of Wigginton’s adventures today, he said, are “trying to figure out how to be a good father and father-in-law to adult children and the best grandfather I can be to Raleigh.”
Wigginton explained that God forms people spiritually in a variety of ways.
“He does this through spiritual disciplines, through the influence of other people, and through moment-to-moment circumstances,” he said. “His invitation is such that every fresh opportunity and risky challenge with an unknown outcome might become a part of an earthly training program for eternity.”
Wigginton is often asked if his book is solely about travel and adrenaline-based adventure.
“Not at all,” he said. “In fact, I make the point that some of the best adventures represent our willingness to try out things that are new and fresh, that may seem a bit risky, and that have an unknown outcome.”
While risk-taking is important to spiritual formation, Wigginton explained that the focus shouldn’t be on taking risks that could be harmful.
“It’s not just about doing foolish things and taking undue risks,” he said, “but it is about risking in a way that there’s an unknown outcome, so part of the process is developing some courage and realizing you need to rely on somebody and something beyond yourself.”
Wigginton pointed out Jesus often points to children as examples of the kind of faith we should all have. First, according to Wigginton, children often live in a state of imagination.
“Any little boy and any little girl can imagine themselves doing just about anything,” Wigginton noted. “Sometimes that’s culture-bound, what they imagine themselves to be, but oftentimes increasingly, it’s not even culture-bound. It’s just about anything.”
“There’s this imagination that’s remarkable.”
Wigginton also said that children are always growing.
“Childhood is just pure growth,” he noted. “You’re constantly doing new things, you’re constantly trying new foods, and you’re constantly having fresh experiences.”
However, a childhood of fresh, new and exciting opportunities often gives way to an adulthood lacking in those opportunities and adventures.
“I‘ve always thought that something about growth, imagination, and adventure is rubbed out as we go through life,” Wigginton said. “Too many times, we grow stale, and we stop imagining. We get caught in our own little routines and our ruts and freshness escapes us.”
Wigginton said we often aren’t even aware we’re trapped in a rut.
“Sameness is oftentimes the enemy of revival in spiritual formation,” Wigginton noted, “but we come alive when we do things that are new.”
Wigginton explains what he hopes his book will accomplish: “My hope is that whether you are a student or veteran of the spiritual journey, this book will challenge you to whisper a new ‘yes’ to God’s ever-evolving call on your life.
“You’ll resolve to not settle for arriving safely at death but to live with joy and purpose all of your days!”
Wigginton’s book is available for purchase on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble and Target. The book can also be purchased in Campbellsville at the Sweetwater Bookshop on Main Street and at the Campbellsville University Barnes and Noble Bookstore.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university that offers over 100 programs including doctoral, master, bachelor, associate and certificate programs. The website for complete information is www.campbellsville.edu.