Slow Down and Listen

As Director of Church Health, part of role is to walk churches through tools like the LifePlan or orient search teams to the transition process or show up to unpack the Church Health survey with boards and leaders.  And as I do this I need to stop and remember that above all what we are doing is part of a spiritual exercise.

So often we are in such a hurry to plan or do or move on to the next hill to climb that we forget that this is God’s church and we are God’s people.  We need to involve Him in a very big way.  I have nothing against tools or programs or five year plans or any of that stuff.  I’m just asking that we remember that they are part of something bigger – this Spiritual exercise we call life with God.

Are we doing more than offering an obligatory prayer before we start our meetings?  Are we doing our best to listen for God’s leading as we plan?  Are we bathing everything in prayer?  Are we living open handed with our ideas and plans so that we can let go of them easily and grab onto God’s plan?  Are we going through the motions of a process or are we truly seeking God’s will?

It’s about getting the order right more than anything.  We need to make sure as we take part in any sort of process, planning or program at the church that we are the kind of people God can use in these settings.  In her book entitled Pursuing God’s Will Together, a book about discernment, decision making and planning, Ruth Haley Barton spends about ¾ of the book on the kind of people we need to be and ¼ on a specific process.  That seems about right.  It is life with God, and we need to cultivate it.

Let’s take it beyond plans and programs.  As we show up to worship, have we prepared ourselves and given serious thought and prayer to what is about to happen?  Or do we fly in and hope it’s good?  As we work, live in our neighborhoods, go to school, hang out with friends and so on – are we preparing for those moments as part of our spiritual life?  Are we thinking and praying through our days with God?  You know, in case He wants us to do something for Him as we go about life.  Even as we engage in our daily activities, are we doing so with one ear open to God, ready to obediently follow should He nudge?  Because life with God is meant to be all of life.  It is all a spiritual exercise.

So let’s find the best tools and use them.  Let’s make plans and execute them but let’s remember that God has something to say about all of this.  This is His church.  We are His people.  Let’s listen and seek and follow and adjust as He moves.  This is life with God.  Let’s live like that.  That’s what healthy churches do.

Marc McAlister,

Director of Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada