Students of Scripture, Present with God in Prayer
Once you start leading other people in ministry you’ll find it difficult to continue leading yourself. It’s ironic, actually, but the truth is that whenever we take on the spiritual development of other people our own spiritual development tends to suffer. As a result, you’ve got to make sure you stay vigilant about your own need for prayer, Bible study, friendship, rest, and strong sensitivity to the nudges and nuances of the Spirit.
We have a little phrase we use to help people stay sharp. We tell them they’re to become “students of the Scripture, present with God in prayer.” By that we mean it’s not sufficient to read the Bible for information. We’ve also got to read the Bible for transformation, letting the Word penetrate our hearts and effect real change in our behaviors, attitudes, and relationships. And, in order for that transformation to stay continually fresh, we’ve got to study the scriptures for new insights. We should be reading books to help us better understand the Bible and using online tools to delve into the stories behind the biblical text.
Additionally, we can’t just spend a few sloppy minutes each week saying rote, perfunctory prayers. We’ve got to learn to walk with the Spirit in each moment of every day. That happens only when we’ve disciplined ourselves to make time to hear from God so that we know his voice and know what kinds of things God regularly says to his people.
We need to become attuned to the Spirit. We need to get dialed in.
We’ve got to get into the habit of regularly asking, “God—what are you saying?” and, as a follow-up, “God—what do you want us to do about it?” Notice we’re not asking, “God—what do you want us to do about situation x, y, or z?”. There’s too much room for interference when we ask a question like that. Our own prejudices and presuppositions tend to get in the way and it becomes very hard to discern God’s voice amongst all the advice of friends, colleagues, satellite radio, and DVR psychology. No—instead, we ask God what he’s saying. Period. Then we ask God what we ought to do about what he’s saying. Oftentimes, those questions lead us into unforeseen adventures that bear far greater fruit.
One final caveat: becoming students of the scripture, present with God in prayer, requires us to live active, fully engaged lives. Too many Christians sit at home and read their Bibles, or attend five prayer meetings a week, and never actually do anything. Their faith is one of palliative prayer–they just keep saying nice things to God while they slowly die.
But our faith is meant to be robust, glorious, and risky. This requires we get off our backs and get into the game.
Be with people.
Launch new initiatives.
Invite others into the life of the Kingdom.
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com