September 30, 2006

Focus

Over the past few months, there have been a lot of changes in my life. I have moved back to my hometown after 12 years of being elsewhere. I left the denomination that nurtured me theologically and where I spent all of my first years of ministry.

In this time of transition I have been forced to go back to the essentials. I read a lot of blogs and articles by church planters, leaders, and pastors, and there seems to be something missing. I don't think it is intentional. Writers and leaders tend to speak and write about what they perceive to be missing. John Maxwell spoke almost exclusively on leadership because that was an area he saw as lacking. Warren spoke on the Purpose of the church. Others speak of technology, culture, and relevancy. All of these things are good.

What I am afraid often happens, though, is that they become the focus. I was reading Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline yesterday. His chapter on Simplicty proved very convicting (a word that we hear little about). When things other than God become the focus, we become "lost."

Technology, relevancy, even theology are all well and good, but if they replace a pastor/planter's desire for all of God or take the place of being the focal point of the ministry we are focusing on the wrong thing. "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added." The danger is to begin depending upon all these things rather than to seek the Kingdom of God.

There is a balance needed. We cannot neglect our need to grow in leadership, use technology as a tool, speak to people where they are at, and "seeking the kingdom" does not allow us to be irrelevant, negligent of good tools, or lacking in leadership. But these things can become the proverbial "tail that wags the dog."

The focus of our writing, reading, speaking, etc demonstrates whether our hearts are in the right place. Where we spend our time is of equal importance. I was reading several blogs of church planters whose day included a half-hour of time spent with God. Time spent in the car was listening to sermons, and the rest of the day was activity and busy-ness.

Is there a set amount of time we should spend with God? No, but I doubt a half-hour is sufficient. Are things we have to do? Yes, but where is the silence and solitude?

I don't think I have done justice to what is stirring inside me, but I know that just as the modern church was accused of making "seeker friendly," "structures," and "marketing" a god, many today are making technology, cultural-relevance, and "hip-ness" a god. What would happen if we as pastors/planters sought after God first and gave him the majority of our time, and then did what he led us to do?

4 comments:

  1. Great post. I appreciate you putting this out there. Taht encouraged me. Sometimes I wrestle with the hip and cool and buzz and all that. God keeps yanking my chain...thankfully.

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  2. Eric, I never did understand the "devotional" time thing myself. I always was of the mindset that every moment of our day we were "devoting" to God... our hearts should always be turned to listen.

    We should make soaking, prayer, reading, resting in the presence our priority over all. Be ready to cancel our plans to spend more time with Him if He asks that day... and make that our priority. Not scheduling in an "appointment" with God but living in the Spirit where He might beckon us in the morning, afternoon, late at night... but whenever being ready and willing.

    I think God wants all of us to spend a lot more time in prayer than our "devotional" times. What would happen if we went to HOURS a day of prayer from our measly 30 minutes?

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  3. Ronni,

    I agree with you. Every moment should be seen as part of our ongoing relationship with God.

    BUT, there must be times during the day that we are concentrating our focus on God (I know you would agree).

    Before our everyday moments can be lived in ongoing relationship, we have to learn to BE in God's presence in silence, solitude, and prayer. This, I believe, cannot be done apart from dedicating some part of each day to prayer. It is out of that "devotional" time that we are able then to go on living the rest of the day in God's presence. When every second of every hour is filled with activity, there is no way a person can be living in the presence of God. Why? Because the spiritual forefathers attest to the need for devoted times away every day. Even the Monastics, who literally attempt to spend ever moment of every day in God's presence, recognize the need to spend time away.

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  4. Great post, Eric. Sometimes we who are in a ministry get so caught up in the work of the ministry that we lose sight of the One we are serving! I work for a pastor, and remember a time when I asked him if it was ok to skip an in-depth Bible class I was taking to stay late and do some catch-up work that I was behind on for the ministry. His answer was "absolutely not". My being fed the Word was more important to him than my catching up on my work for him.

    Like your site, by the way.

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