In many a sermon, I have urged congregations to engage with the Bible devotionally, even if it doesn’t seem exciting all of the time. I have used metaphors relating to food: in one, I point out that not every one of your three meals a day has to be memorable, but you need to take in nutrition for health. In another, I compare it to the actions of Joseph in Genesis urging Pharaoh to store up food in the seven years of plenty, ready for the seven years of famine.
With that in mind, read this testimony by Gordon MacDonald. Here is a clear illustration of the ‘Joseph’ approach. What MacDonald learned as a teenager has resourced him spiritually in old age. Read and heed.
The late Steve Jobs famously insisted that the same design standards be applied to those parts of an Apple product that no consumer would ever see as were applied to the outer parts, which gained admiration for their style.
Something similar is true of the Christian, and certainly of those of us called to the daunting task of leadership in the church. Gordon Macdonald makes a similar point in a recent book, using a similar analogy:
David McCullough’s book The Great Bridge tells a fascinating story about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, which arches the East River and joins Manhattan to Brooklyn.
In June 1872, the chief engineer of the project wrote: “To such of the general public as might imagine that no work had been done on the New York tower, because they see no evidence of it above the water, I should simply remark that the amount of the masonry and concrete laid on that foundation during the past winter, under water, is equal in quantity to the entire masonry of the Brooklyn tower visible today above the waterline” (italics mine).
The Brooklyn Bridge remains a major transportation artery in New York City today because 135 years ago the chief engineer and his construction team did their most patient and daring work where no one could see it: on the foundations of the towers below the waterline. It is one more illustration of an ageless principle in leadership: the work done below the waterline (in a leader’s soul) that determines whether he or she will stand the test of time and challenge. This work is called worship, devotion, spiritual discipline. It’s done in quiet, where no one but God sees.
Macdonald’s book is appropriately called, ‘Building Below the Waterline: Shoring Up the Foundations of Leadership‘. The quote above is from the introduction (page 1). By the end of the first chapter he’s making the large claim that almost all Christian leaders agree that they need to carve out one to two hours a day for this work of nurturing the spiritual centre.
There seem to be some other books in recent years that take a similar tack. Ruth Haley Barton’s ‘Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry‘ is one. Pete Scazzero’s ‘Emotionally Healthy Spirituality‘ and ‘The Emotionally Healthy Church‘ are two more. In the last few decades, Eugene Peterson and Henri Nouwen have been voices callng in the wilderness, pleading with us to take this seriously, rather than concentrating on the latest techniques and plans to grow your church. Might it be that at last their cries are being heeded?
So – two questions:
1. What do you do to nurture the hidden parts of your spiritual life?
2. Are there any other authors and books you recommend on this subject?
Here are some more places I stopped on my electronic travels this week. Several of these links come from Leadership Journal, because I’ve been catching up on a few weeks’ worth of the Leadership Weekly email they send out over the last couple of days.
Some pictures from the Hubble telescope. Get beyond the first few and you’ll see some amazing ones. I’ve just made the image of the Sombrero Galaxy my desktop background.
Take seven minutes and forty seconds of your time to listen to Archbishop John Sentamu speak on the Advent theme of waiting.
A moving description of happiness from Ben Witherington III.
In Bedside Manner, Matt Lumpkin offers advice on caring for the sick and for yourself during pastoral visiting in hospital.
David Keen looks at Back To Church Sunday and considers what proportion of the population is open to evangelism of a ‘come to us’ approach, compared with the need for a ‘missional’ strategy. (Via blogs4god.)
Coming and going is an interview that contrasts the attractional and missional approaches to evangelism and church. In the attractional corner, Ed Young, ‘the dude with the food’, ‘the worship event is the port of entry to the church’, ‘I believe God gives one person the vision – the pastor.’ In the missional corner, Neil Cole, ‘Using traditional [church] planting methods, it would cost $80 billion to reach Atlanta’, ‘Three things deter spontaneous multiplication: buildings, budgets, and big shots’, ‘We have to think in terms of mobilizing the kingdom to go where people are. Too many Christians are passive and unengaged.’
Walt Kallestad gave up on attractional with the big show and transitioned to a discipleship model.
On the other hand, Dan Kimball (of all people) has expressed missional misgivings and particularly urged missional churches not to criticise attractional congregations.
According to Christian Aid, ethical giving hasn’t been hit by the credit crunch.
Also on the credit crunch, Gordon Macdonald says this is no time to cower for the Christian church. His fifth and sixth ideas sound very close to what many ‘missional’ Christians have been advocating.
Think tank Theos has published research showing that one in three Britons believes in the virgin birth. Of course, just believing a doctrine isn’t enough …
Communion wine from Bethlehem is being stopped at checkpoints by Israeli soldiers who deem it – wait for it – a security risk.