Thursday, July 20, 2017

In the Absence of God's Presence, Church Becomes a Circus

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Anderson Gardens, Rockford, Illinois



The first class I taught on prayer was in the M.Div. program at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary. That was 1977. Today, after forty years of teaching prayer and spiritual formation to four thousand pastors and Christian leaders, my discovery is that 80-90% of them do not have a significant prayer life. They, like most, say "I don't have time to pray."

If a pastor or Christian leader is from a non-Western, Third World context, the odds are they do have a significant prayer life. The general rule is this: the more stuff a person has, the less they pray; the less stuff a person has, the more they pray. There are exceptions, but not many. As Jesus said, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

In the absence of a deep life of prayer-connectedness to God, what does Christian ministry look like? Henri Nouwen writes:


"Most Christian leaders are used to thinking in terms of large-scale organization: getting people together in congregations, schools, and hospitals, and running the show as a circus director. They have become unfamiliar with, and even somewhat afraid of, the deep and significant movements of the Spirit within. I am afraid that in a few decades the Church will be accused of having failed at its most basic task: to offer people creative ways to communicate with the divine source of human life." (Nouwen, Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit, Kindle Locations 207-210)

The #1 thing a pastor-shepherd must do is plant themselves by the living waters and green pastures of God's earth-shattering presence, and then lead their people there.

Teach them, as Jesus instructed, to abide in Him. (John 14-16)

Then their lives will bear much fruit.