One of the often-overlooked obstacles to the healthy shared life of a congregation is our contemporary relationship with time. The project of being apprenticed to Jesus is one that requires time and community. It can’t happen alone and it can’t happen unintentionally or simply through sitting in a weekly worship service. Being sculpted into the likeness of Jesus requires intentional time with Jesus and time with other disciples as well.
The single biggest ingredient in spiritual formation (or discipleship), aside from the work of the Holy Spirit, is intention–a planned and deliberate approach to being available and open for God to work.
If you’re reading this and you’re anything other than a professionally spiritual person you’re probably thinking — right! In fact, many clergy are also struggling to maintain healthy spiritual disciplines at a staggering cost to the church in terms of the loss of spiritual vitality and effective ministry that is sustainable over the long term.
In honor of the lawyers, doctors, teachers, and other folk who haven’t, say, taken monastic vows, here’s a short list of things you can do to be more open to the Lord’s working in your life:
- Start small – if you’re currently praying and/or reading Scripture only once per week, try adding a short (5-10 minutes) to your day on one to two other days. You don’t go from praying once per week to praying for an hour daily–it takes time.
- Work it into your routine – the best time for me to pray is first thing in the morning. Find your best time and then schedule it into your daily routine. Don’t try to pray first thing in the morning if you’re a night owl!
- Cut the fat – if you look at your day with any degree of honesty, you’ll realize that along they way you make choices that fill time with less-than-best fillers. For me, it’s Facebook. I often follow discussions of denominational life with other ministers online. Often there’s encouragement, but often (to be honest) the things that are going on in our denomination are like a traffic accident–you can’t look away and it can take a huge amount of energy if you’re not careful. Cut Facebook, add time in Scripture or with your kids.
- Don’t expect a miracle – the spiritual disciplines are like eating. Occasionally you will have a gourmet meal, but most of the time you’re investing in normal time with God. It may be counterintuitive in an entertainment-focused culture, but God does his profoundest work in small, incremental change that takes place over time.