The greatest joy in my life is my wife and 4 kids. I love being a dad and husband.
I am always trying to be aware of how our involvement in planting churches and pastoring is affecting our family. I have seen and heard and know too many stories of the loss of family at the alter of church leadership.
From the outset I said I don’t want that story and at even particular crossroads had to calculate the weight that ministry was putting on my family. In my opinion the mark of a leader is calculated not in the spotlight of ministry, but in the dark of the night, leading those closest to them.
That said, there are many of times that the weight of church planting seemed overwhelming.
The weight of church planting is something that few can understand unless having traveled that road. It seems to come in and out like the changing seasons of time. So the question is what do I do? How do I lead my family through this? How do I lead my church planting team through this? How do I not lose my soul to this feeling of being overwhelmed?
I. Reorient the Mind to the Truth of the Scriptures
I was reading through the scriptures a couple of weeks ago and came across a Psalm that may be growing to be one of my favorites. Psalm 29.
I hear the Psalmist praising three facets about God that can speak powerfully to the overwhelming world of church planting and even life in general. The Psalmist praises the Lord’s Strength, the Lord’s Voice, and the Lord’s Position.
We see a picture painted of the Angels and Heavenly Beings worshiping the Lord’s Glory and Strength. The Psalmist then gives voice to the Lord’s Commanding Voice that both makes the deer give birth and strips the forest bare. The Lord speaks life into existence. Lastly the Psalmist gives a visual of the Lord calmly and peacefully enthroned, again bringing us back to a place of worshipping God’s Strength and Glory.
The longer I’ve been involved with church planting and just leading within God’s Church the more I realize you come face to face with this world.
“The world is more magical, less predictable, more autonomous, less controllable, more varied, less simple, more infinite, less knowable, more wonderfully troubling that we could have imagined being able to tolerate when we were young.”
I both love and hate this description of life by James Hollis an author and professor of Jungian Studies. I love how concise he paints what my soul often feels. From an ENTJ that likes to organize my outside world and confidently lead forward, I hate that this paradox becomes the reality. Life then becomes both marvelous and painful, mysterious and frightening, adventurous and yes overwhelming.
So the question is, how do I live into the marvelous, mysterious and adventurous side of life without being swept away? As I read this Psalm I was struck at how much I become overwhelmed when I lose sight of the Lord’s Strength, the Lord’s Voice, and the Lord’s Position.
I wonder if unconsciously we are listening to the wrong voices, using our own strength, propelling our own position in this world. How much pressure would be released if we simply allowed God’s Church to be just that, God’s Church; developed with His Strength, His Voice, and His Position being the one that is elevated. There is a particular spiritual practice that I have found to ground me and help me reestablish my footing. It is the practice of solitude.
II. Gain Strength through Solitude
I have found that the practice of solitude, maybe one of the biggest missing practices within the Church, dealing with the inward life. I have found that solitude helps me recalibrate these things of Strength, Voice, and Position.
If I may be honest for a moment, many of us will never dive into this practice and will resist it like the plague because solitude will definitely bring me to places that I sometimes don’t want to go.
Henri Noewen states “Solitude is not immediately satisfying, because in solitude we meet our demons, our addictions, our feelings of lust and anger, and our immense need for recognition and approval. But if we do not run away we will meet there also the One who says, “Do not be afraid I am with you, and I will guide you through the valley of darkness.”
In walking through many seasons of being overwhelmed I have found solitude as Noewen argues being the furnace of my own transformation. Solitude is the place of great struggle and great encounter at the same time. It is the struggle against the compulsion of the false self often tied into the wrong strength, wrong voices, and wrong position. Solitude then brings me to an encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.
I was reminded of the importance of this spiritual practice on a recent V3 retreat in Malibu. Solitude has the potential of leading to a double knowledge – the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self. Consider today how you will begin or continue this great spiritual practice that will carry with it the ability of life long sustainability. Below are some suggestions.
Do you have a place that you can go regularly where no one can find you? Physically and Electronically. Do you prefer outdoors or indoors?
If you’ve never practiced solitude what is a healthy frequency to start with? Try 10 minutes a day, 60 minutes a week, a weekend a year. Have you ever considered taking a spiritual retreat by yourself?
Allow this time to take in little information and tune out things like the radio, TV, Internet.
In times of solitude try to listen, take in your surroundings, read a little and spend time reflecting on it as opposed to taking in a lot, give yourself freedom to move and be mindful of that which is around you.
Ask yourself in this time what does true strength look like, whose voice are you listening to, and what position are you currently taking in relation to God’s position.
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