Monday, September 19, 2011

More of Less Activity: In Favor of Spiritual Disciplines

Silence. Solitude. Meditation. Fasting. Simplicity.
These are as strange and alien concepts to the life of Christians in the West as a business man in a tree. At best such practices are odd, optional or only for super-Christians. Or worse, they could be construed as punitive.

However our historic Christian faith grew in grace and power as everyday believers and leaders practiced spiritual disciplines. 

On purpose. With astonishing results.

Return to Spiritual Disciplines
When I started in ministry as a 23-year-old Jr Hi Pastor just off the road with a Christian band, voice mail and pagers were cutting edge. We communicated only via phone and paper. Now we have social media, cell phones and the internet that invades every spare corner of our lives.  

My pastoral bosses encouraged me to read Foster's Celebration of Discipline and made me go on monthly prayer retreats. I did not like it at first. Now I am so glad someone showed me how and why spiritual disciplines are vital for ministry. It was not easy for me to do.

It showed me ministry is impossible to do. For me. I need Jesus to do it. In fact, Jesus said in  John 14:12-14 that we would do greater works than He did. By asking Him to do what He can do through us.

Disciplines are inconvenient, frustrating and seem counter-productive. But we managed to get ministry accomplished before cell phones, iPads and wi-fi. Apparently, even Jesus and the church ministered pretty well focusing on prayer, discipleship and a simple life.

It leads to this leading question: what kind of boundaries (if any) do you have now between the urgency of everything on your phone or tablet or laptop and your relationship with Christ? I fear our little space for Jesus makes us a mile wide and an inch deep. I'll even say it may make us hypocrites on par with Pharisees.

Will you be one who says, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or naked or a stranger' because we were too busy virtually connecting with people? (Matthew 25).

Expect More from Parents and Pastors
A pastor friend of mine just posted the following:
(Name) is going off the grid for a week for a silent retreat. Yup. No cell, not FB, no Angry Birds, no TV to numb or distract me. No agenda, not planning, no strategizing- just a whole week to meet with Jesus. I'll either go completely crazy or meet Jesus. We'll see.
I applaud his decision! And I say MORE of LESS!

More of less should be normal. Not considered newsworthy or radical or neat if you can spare the time. 

Don't you want to meet Jesus, no matter what it takes? 

What We Need
Our churches in Atlanta and in the West need more power of the Holy Spirit. More prayer and intercession. More trust in God than trust in skill and effort. What we need more grace-filled discipline.

When I parachuted in to do a scratch multi-ethnic church plant, there were a million things to do, but I taped a quote from Eugene Peterson to my computer monitor. 

It says, 'Busyness is laziness.' Busyness is substituting the good things for the highest, most excellent things. Meeting with Jesus ought to be our most excellent task. 

Do I get too busy? Yes. Am I not getting enough done? You'd have to ask the leaders of my church and our church planting network.

I do not hold myself up as an example. I hold up Jesus as FAR MORE WORTHY of our time and pursuit than anything else - including ministry, comfort and child-raising.

Pastors, fathers, mothers, your church and your family need you to turn off the 24/7 distractions and meet with Jesus - regularly, purposefully, intentionally. Replace the good things with excellent. Quiet, solitude, simplicity, fasting will deepen your experience of Jesus' grace.

This is not earning your salvation. This is experiencing the transformation Jesus' wrought by His salvation.

It's hard at first. But it's the best thing you can do with your time.