This is post #7 in a nine blog/podcast series entitled LIVING PURPOSEFULLY. In this series, we’ll look at the theme of living a Christ-centered life and explore how we, like Jesus of Nazareth, can become recipients of God’s amazing gift to live life on purpose and to the full. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Our Lectio Divina for today: Colossians 2: 6-7 (MsgB)
My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live Him. You’re deeply rooted in Him. You’re well constructed upon Him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.
So now, we’ve finally reached our last week of blog/podcast studies in our journey into Christian discipleship. So many words have been said, so many thoughts shared, and now, it’s my job to close the book on these things, summarizing as best I can, where we’ve traveled and, more importantly, where we all might go from here.
If you are a regular reader of our blog (www.contemplative-activist.com), you know that I have come, in recent years, to realize that for the great majority of my 30-plus years in pastoral ministry, I was, what I call, a 3-B Pastor. Sadly, like most church leaders in our westernized culture, I defined much of my ‘success’ (or failure) in ministry by measuring the size of the (B)uilding our church worshiped in, the quantity of (B)ucks we took in our weekly offerings, and the number of (B)utts we could get into our sanctuary for Sunday morning services!
In 2008, Jesus began dismantling my 3-B church that I had spent so many years trying to build. While I didn’t understand it at the time, I now know that the Master wasn’t mad or disappointed in all the work I’d invested in. In truth, it was a miracle of God that Sandy and I began in 1998 with only 4 other couples in our living room, and over the next ten years, we saw Jesus grow it into a vibrant, Jesus-loving church of well over 350 people! In 3-B language, that was not phenomenal growth, but it was a healthy sign that people seemed to be loving the church we put together, and indeed, many seemed to be inviting others to join with us. But in the fall of 2008, one decade into our church-planting efforts, there were two massive issues surrounding our church.
First, our whole summer had been spent doing massive flood-relief work in our city, a project that was amazing to be a part of, but it also drained all of us to levels of tiredness we’d never experienced before. Secondly, my 3-B leadership approach to ministry found me, as we came out of a summer of successful ministry, trying to gear up our team of tired and weary leaders so we could grow the church to the next numerical level, setting a goal of breaking the 500 barrier by the next summer of 2009. But suddenly, everything came to a grinding stop, and over the next several years, most of our key leaders checked out, leaving all of us who remained both empty-handed and struggling to fill all the ministry holes that suddenly sprung a leak. I remember telling my pastoral coach that I felt like the little Dutch boy who was assigned to plug the growing number of holes popping through the dike he was assigned to protect! By 2013, we were running out of fingers and toes, as our church body shrank to less than 100 people, struggling to keep a building that once was too small for our ministry needs, but now had become an albatross hanging around our necks.
Now, I freely admit, there were many times I thought about throwing in the towel during this difficult time, but praise God we didn’t. You see, as a long-time follower of Christ, I knew in my heart that even if the church I loved so much disappeared, my call to serve Him in obedience would never be withdrawn. So, after much help from a godly pastoral coach and a handful of very wise, discerning spiritual directors, Sandy & I decided that this was not the end, but simply a massive God-transition from one way of doing church, using my 3-B measuring stick, to yet another way by which God planned to use us all. Today, Sandy & I, and the handful of heroes who stuck it out with us through the firestorm, have now joined the ranks of other men and women across the fruited plain of North America who are defining themselves as “recovering” 3-B pastors and church leaders, on our way to becoming, what we now like to call, Christ-centered 3-C contemplative activists.
As I see it, a Christ-centered 3-C contemplative activist is one who has decided to forsake a westernized corporate view of Christianity where our churches allow the 3-B’s (Buildings, Bucks, & Butts in the seats) to govern our success in ministry, and now embraces instead, the singular desire to live a fruitful, Christ-honoring life; a simple & sustainable faith that is rooted in the three major disciplines found in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Around our now radically re-defined church in Cedar Rapids, we like to call these three disciplines, the 3-C’s.
Communion (with Christ)
Community (with others)
Commission (into our world)
Author Henri Nouwen (in a little book called A Spirituality of Living) does an excellent job in describing this 3-C lifestyle of Jesus, where the Master models three specific life disciplines throughout His three years of ministry. Allow me to quote Nouwen as he comments on Luke 6: 12-19 (one day in the life of Jesus)…
This is a beautiful story that moves from night to morning to afternoon. Jesus spent the night in solitude with God. In the morning, He gathered His apostles around Him and formed community. In the afternoon, with His apostles, He went out and preached the Word and healed the sick. Notice the order–from solitude to community to ministry. The night is for solitude; the morning for community; the afternoon for ministry.
So often in ministry, I have wanted to do it by myself. If it didn’t work, I went to others and said, “Please!” searching for a community to help me. If that didn’t work, maybe I’d start praying. But the order that Jesus teaches us is the reverse. It begins by being with God in solitude; then it creates a fellowship, a community of people with whom the mission is being lived; and finally this community goes out together to heal and to proclaim good news.
I believe you can look at solitude, community, and ministry as three disciplines by which we create space for God. If we create space in which God can act and speak, something surprising will happen. You and I are called to these disciplines if we want to be disciples.
Thanks Henri! I needed to hear that! Note that we’ve taken Nouwen’s three disciplines (solitude, community, and ministry) and made them a bit easier to remember, calling them the 3-C’s: Communion, Community & Commission.
This week, in our final blog sessions, please allow me to unpack for you these 3-C life-disciplines of a Christ-centered contemplative activist. If you’re like me, I believe it might give you a fresh, fiery vision for where Jesus of Nazareth might be taking you in the days ahead. And speaking of God’s fiery presence, let me close with this ancient quote that speaks of the hope I have for you and me as we stay on course with the Master…
The day will come when, after harnessing the space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, SJ
My prayer: Father, with the help of others like Henri Nouwen, and other godly men and women who’ve gone before us, I choose to embrace the simple and sustainable faith that we’re defining as Christ-centered 3-C contemplative activism. I thank You for all You’ve done in my life through this journey into Christian discipleship and look for the holy fire of God to burn brightly in my life in the days ahead. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: Let’s ponder these few simple questions…
- How has my understanding of my call to be a faithful follower of Christ evolved in recent years?
- Have I made a significant decision concerning Christ during this time, or do I need God’s help in making such a decision in the future?
- Have I grown in faith, hope, and love, and where does such life-giving growth lead me now?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live a Christ-centered, purposeful life?
Thank you for joining us on this 9-session journey we call Living Purposefully. We suggest you bookmark our blog/podcast homepage for this series to keep all the blogs and podcasts in one place for your future reference.
Oh, and if you enjoy what you’re reading here, we encourage you to share this page and our website, The Contemplative Activist, with your friends!