Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ category

Discipleship: Program or Process?

June 10, 2009

A question I ponder frequently is – how are we doing making disciples?

Southern Baptists (in general) tend to be very program-oriented, and that is apparent in many of our discipleship ministries. Churches offer short-term courses that deal with marriage, finances, parenting, or biblical themes. Often, this involves sitting in a class-room watching and listening to a talking head on a TV screen while we fill in the blanks of a workbook.

Yes, I do find value in (some of) these courses, but part of me wonders how well they really work in making disciples? I think there must be more.

I came across a great post by Michael Spencer on his “Jesus Shaped Spirituality” blog that addresses this question. It’s great food for thought – I hope you will give it a read: The Jesus Disconnect – The Process of Discipleship.

So . . . how are we doing? Let me know what you think after you read Michael’s post.


Finding a Quiet Place

April 9, 2009

Solitude – it’s a rare commodity for most people these days. Busy lifestyles revolving around work, family, recreation – even church, can rob of us time we desperately need for quiet and connection with God.

Solitude is not the same is being alone. One can feel alone in a crowd, yet never experience solitude in a pristine wilderness. To be alone is to be isolated. Conversely, solitude can actually help us reconnect – with ourselves and with our God.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35 (NIV)

If you read the gospels, you will see that Jesus lived a very busy life. Crowds flocked to him, to hear him speak or to be healed of physical maladies. Even when he was not surrounded by throngs of people, the twelve disciples were with him 24/7. It’s quite telling that Jesus, the very Son of God, had need for solitude. But for Jesus, solitude was not simply a time for being alone – far from it. His solitude served a purpose – he prayed. In these quiet moments, he was able to connect with the Father – for strength, for comfort, for direction.

If Jesus needed times of solitude, how much more do we need it? A great deal more, I would think.

The two primary challenges of finding solitude are:
1. Establishing an appropriate time and place.
2. Learning what to do with solitude.

It can be  frustrating to simply find an appropriate time and place for solitude.  We’re surrounded by distractions and noise from every direction – TVs, computers, ipods, cell-phones, car radios, even other people – the list goes on and on. It takes a degree of discipline to set these things aside, even for a short time. Equally challenging is finding time for solitude. Most people I know suffer from schedule-itis: a sense that there are not enough hours in the day to do all that is needed. Still, most people seem to find the time to do those things they deem most important.

So, if you come to the conclusion that you need time during the day for quiet communion with God, you will need to find the time that best suits you. Some people are early risers while others are night owls – carve out a niche of time that suits you best.

A consistent place is helpful as well. If at all possible, try to avoid a place with too many distractions or temptations. If weather permits, going outside might help. Remember that Jesus had to leave where he was staying and walk a bit to find solitude.

Let’s assume you’ve established a time and an appropriate place of solitude. Now what? To be honest, the first time you really enter the quiet zone may seem strange. We’re so programmed to hearing back-ground noise that quiet may be disturbing. I would simply say, talk to God as you would talk to a friend – forget the flowery, churchy language. I would also say, spend more time listening than talking.

Be still, and know that I am God. – Psalm 46-10a

He said:  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—  from violent men you save me. – 2 Samuel 22:2-3 (NIV)

Solitude allows us to focus and hear from God – through our prayers, through reading and pondering upon scripture, and by simply listening and waiting upon Him. I’m not saying you will hear an audible voice, but you will likely receive very deep and clear impressions as the Holy Spirit does His work. I also believe you will find your quiet place to be a refuge – a place of peace where you can not only hear from God, but you will get to know Him better. The effort to find and maintain your quiet place is well worth the effort.