Tomorrow I am off for two days of retreat with a number of other pastors – we get together a few times a year for overnight get togethers and then for a whole week once a year. It’s a refreshing and uplifting time.
Early this year at Connections we had a series on the importance of the “desert” or “solitary place” (we even put the Greek word ερημος up on the screen and talked about it). We looked at how Jesus deliberately went to “solitary places” – and how the theme of “wilderness” is often at play in the Bible when it talks about God meeting with his people.
In the end, the “health” of a Christian walk is not measured by how well someone acts at church, or how readily they volunteer – it’s who they are when they are alone, laid bare before God. That is the “desert” we are talking about. It is in such solitary places that some of the more intangible works of sanctification are done – especially as we turn to the Bible at such times. It is there that we are convicted of sin, assured of forgiveness, comforted, guided, and can consider the wisdom of God at work. It is there that we are matured, helped, strengthened as individuals who follow Christ so that when we return from that place of solitude we are effective and purposeful as God’s agents in the world and in church.
2008 began with a call at Connections for people to seek God and to take the discipline of daily bible reading, prayer and solitude seriously and joyfully.
Our church has been blessed in recent weeks with a number of new people attending and committing to being part of us. This is a joy – but also a time of change and enquiry. What is God’s heart for our ever-forming church? Who will we be together? What things need to change? In what way do I pastor and serve? What are we called to in this season, and how do we implement it?
Soon this will mean a time of planning and doing, visiting, relating, befriending, enjoying. In some ways this has already begun – our vision is to be a community forming people to be and do what Christ has intended – and community-building requires positive action. So we will be having BBQ’s and picnics, opportunities to relate, know and belong etc. etc. etc.
But the next two days, for me, are a time to be alone with God, shaped around brothers in ministry, and to lay this blessing, and all other things in his hands. To hold what has been given lightly, and to store up his word in the deepest place. Then whatever comes next – a leap or a fairy-step – it will be well done in faith.