Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Importance of Meditation and Reflection

Over the past year I've watched several videos of pastors preaching (downloaded from iTunes for free) in which they indicated a frustration over the fact that the people in their churches weren't really growing in their faith even though they had good Bible teaching and were involved in things like discipleship classes. I’ve also read many web articles and blog posts saying the same thing as well.

I think this is a very common problem everywhere today which is very unfortunate. I thought about this quite a bit during this past school year since I was involved in teaching classes in our School of Ministry. Why is there so much teaching yet so little transformation?

My answer to this question involves three things: 1. The times we live in 2. The unrealistic or improper expectations of "knowledge" by itself to change people 3. The prevalent consumer mentality that exist in the church.

We live in an age heavily influenced by technology which causes people to be busy all the time and overloaded with information. People don't have time to smell the roses or think deeply about things. I am sure Satan likes it this way and if you look behind the curtain I think you would find him involved in all this. Have you ever heard of the acronym B.U.S.Y.? (Being Under Satan's Yoke)

Today I read a blog post by Tod Bolsinger titled Culture Trumps Vision Every Time
that I think, while looking at why a "vision" of a church doesn't result in change, is really talking about the same thing I am . Here are some quotes from the post:

“'Tod, you have done a great job articulating a compelling vision for our church. It’s one of the things that you do best. But you have to remember that vision is not all that powerful. Culture trumps vision every time.'

A “culture” is the result of the intentional and mostly unintentional “habits” of a people. The assumptions, “givens”, the unreflected-upon actions and attitudes that make up “who we are” that most of the time we don’t even think about.

Here is one thing I believe: No one sets out to undermine their vision. No one who believes in the vision of a church, organization or cause determines to let it get trumped by the status quo. But it happens. All. the. time. And it happens mostly unconsciously through our unreflective habitual actions.

What can we do? How can we experience the true power of a God-inspired Vision?

Well, we can start by focusing on what we are doing. Observing our actions, paying attention to habits. And then humbly acknowledge those moments of contradiction and come back to Christ again.

Culture may trump vision every time. But humble self-awareness of our contradictory nature is a pretty powerful opening hand to play."

I think we need to figure out how to change our "culture" and make time for meditation and reflection if we truly want to follow Jesus and be transformed to be more like Him. That is, to meditate on scripture and prayerfully and honestly reflect on ourselves in light of scripture. To do this we need to practice the spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude. If we don't the "noise" of life will continue to drown out the voice of the Spirit.

On the second point about
unrealistic or improper expectations of "knowledge" by itself to change people. Maybe for some it works sometimes in certain situations but it seems clear that knowledge does not necessarily result in wisdom or transformation. I think the missing ingredient is our brothers and sisters in Christ who we live life with over the long haul. Again, our culture is very individualistic and encourages people to be their own gods and this is not a good thing for those who are created in the image of a trinitarian creator God. People have a hunger for community and relationships but they don't want to do what is takes to have that. It takes work and is very messy but it is that very process that God uses to change us and make us more like His Son.

When it comes to the third point about
those in the church having a consumer mentality instead of a servant mentality. This also is something that has happened to us because of the times we live in. Everyone is looking for what they can get out everything, even God! He is treated more like a genie that does our bidding when we rub the lamp (pray). Rather than, "Not my will, but Your will be done". This is so pervasive that we don't even realize it. In fact, most of the "successful" churches today are that because they feed into this "McDonald's mentality. Check out this video here.

I remember one time sharing with a young adult's Sunday school class when I was back in the States on furlough and someone asking how I ended up at Calvary Chapel. I told them the church I was in before was not a good fit for my gifts so I prayed and asked God to show me where He wanted me to serve Him. The look on their faces when I said that was priceless. It was like, "Wow, that's strange." Most people look at what they can get out of church not what they can contribute and that is sad both for them and the church.

So how can we help people to be transformed to be more like Jesus? Well, to start with we need to change the culture and mindset in our churches which I think is a very challenging thing to do. But do it we must!

Where do we start? We start with pray, confessing our need and asking the Lord for help.
Then we do what we can to help people see how the influences in their lives are harming their walk with God and thus, harming them. We need to figure out how to encourage those in our churches to really get connected with one another and to stop looking to be served but rather to serve. Finally we need to do all we can by example and encouragement to be a people who make time for silence and solitude because we see the value of making time for God. After all, isn't He what it is all about anyway?

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