I had the pleasure of attending a Contemplative Pastor’s Conference in Cedar Rapids this past weekend. Our goal was two-fold: to be with God and to explore what it means to redefine the way we view pastoral ministry. Eugene Peterson’s book “The Contemplative Pastor” provided many conversation points for our time together.
My main takeaway from the conference was the absolute necessity of spending time alone with God (solitude), especially as a minister. There simply is no substitute or shortcut to effective ministry – there is only baring our souls to our Loving Father and letting the All Consuming Fire do His work in our hearts. Prayer and intimacy with God are two main ingredients to seeing our minds renewed and our characters conformed to the image of Christ Jesus. It is only from the place of Spirit inspired transformation that true ministry takes place – ministry that will set captives free, see people healed and the lost come to salvation in Jesus.
I’m reminded of the Desert Fathers, some of whom spent 20 or 30 years in the desert, seeking communion with God. The crucible of solitude and silence, prayer and petition, love and devotion radically reformed these men and women’s hearts and minds so that when they reentered the world they ministered from a place of wholeness and Christlikeness. Their impact in history cannot be denied – we are still talking about them and receiving from them a thousand or more years later, even though they “wasted” half of their lives in the secret place with God.
One of my primary concerns now is finding the desert, the secret place, in the midst of my ministerial life. Simply having 20 hours blocked out for prayer and study doesn’t mean I am effective or fully participating in that time. Lord, would you give me greater zeal and love and devotion for You. Amen.