Sunday, June 18, 2006

Spiritual Disciplines

I’ve discovered why, I believe, the Spirit has not permitted me to go into a formal field of ministry yet. As I left the community and accountability of a wonderful church in Dallas for the religious communal wasteland that is deep East Texas, I’ve come to learn some new things about my relationship to Jesus. In exchange for over 100 like-minded solid, walking Christians, I have chosen a handful of stressed out and burdened entrepreneurs, a church with few people my age and a very hectic schedule. I have felt the effects of little or no community.

A thousand times I’ve prayed, “Lord, I know I seem distant from you right now – but please don’t give up on me. I still love you!”

For some time, I’ve relied very heavily on community and others for building and refreshing my faith. And how important that is! It’s critical, in fact. We are, obviously, creatures hardwired for rich community with God and other people. But what happens when you step out into the wastelands? For example, the rice paddies of China or the jungles of Indonesia or Africa… places where there are no anointed preachers for a thousand miles. No friends to lift you up when the world is crushing you to the ground. What happens when your community, even in your church, fails to be a community? What about when “spiritual highs” are a distant memory, like a past life? What is it that keeps the lone missionary walking strong?

My humbled and broken answer is one which I have some head knowledge, but ashamedly too little life experience. It is a subject I understand and appreciate, but have neglected because of my rich group of friends and encouragers I have always had in my life. I’ve neglected, also, out of my distaste for acts that seem to be justification by works, or the earning of eternal life… religion. It is an answer which I believe the whole of the American church lacks… my answer is the spiritual disciplines.

Lately, I have been broken by my inability to do anything good without God – by my darkest darks, which are even deeper than the African jungles. When I live apart from active, daily intimacy with God as a Christian, I take the Lord’s name upon myself in vain. Often, I impede the spread of the gospel and the knowledge of God’s nature, which is the power of salvation, in the lives in which I have an influence. (The mention of God’s nature brings to mind another area I hope to explore soon, which is the significance of doctrine, or knowing the character and nature of the God we worship.)

In the timeline of God’s lesson plan for me, He has had me rereading sections of The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard and starting on his new book, The Great Ommision. I hope over the next couple of weeks to write on the different disciplines as they fit into their primary purpose: positioning ourselves to praise, love and know God. They are, in their true form, spiritual acts Christ modeled for us in order to increase in grace and knowledge of a Holy God… to be an active disciple even when walking in the wastelands.

“For different reasons, and with different emphases, (the conservative and liberal churches) have agreed that discipleship to Christ is optional to membership in the Christian church. Thus, the very type of life that could change the course of human society—and upon occasion has done so—is excluded or at least omitted from the essential message of the church.”


Blogger Kate said...

Fascinating-- the day that I wrote my great Parisian manifesto on my dependence on Christian fellowship, you did just about the same thousands of miles away.

In any case, I feel every word of your blog post. I've been surprised to discover how utterly dependent I am on interaction with other believers, and yet at the same time I'd like to be prepared to venture into the jungles of Africa if God calls me there.

For now, I have a quasi-contentment with just leaning on the Lord and immersing myself in His Word, but I often consider the balance of fellowship and one-on-one intimacy. It's tricky...

Longest comment EVER? I think yes.

1:30 PM  

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