Service as a Spiritual Discipline
In the eight months since I completed the
However, when service is rooted only in a temporal reality, that is, when our motivation for doing ministry is only about the need that is immediately in front of us, we miss an important, longer view of the
This wasn’t an overnight change for me. In fact it happened over many years as I wrestled with the nature of Christian service, the call to discipleship and a yearning for a deeper relationship with God. Since I began my ministry in the local church, I’ve been fairly certain that the work of Christian ministry was more than just going through the motions of “doing church”. I’ve known that there was a “being” component to this work that was rooted deeply within a relationship with Christ. Over the years I think I’ve grown in my ability to bear witness to that distinction and to draw people more deeply into a way of serving that was more than rote and more than doing something simply because I asked them. There was still something missing. There was a connective piece that I couldn’t quite get my hands on.
I realize now that my conversations, my preaching, my teaching and my leading were more academic than experiential. I knew that I was on the right track. But because I lacked the experience of service as a spiritual discipline, it was difficult to lead others there. A couple of months ago I could feel a shift in my spirituality. Through the time of the Academy, much of my focus was internal. My disciplines were very inwardly focused. A couple of months ago I could feel the focus shift. I began to see ways, open doorways through which I could go into the world and express in tangible ways the grace that I had experienced in my inward journey of spiritual formation. I began to experience what I’d been saying and preaching for some years…that serving others as Christ served is not simply the matter of the right task list. To serve as Christ served is rooted in deep and life giving relationships…first with God and then with others. The intimacy of His relationship with God the Father and the intimacy of His relationship with the disciples and those whom he served was the pathway of effectiveness.
The lesson for me is that the metric for faithful discipleship is not the quantity of tasks that we are able to check off at the end of the day. Rather, faithful service is measured by the quality of all of our relationships and that they are in effect means of God’s grace poured out in the world. I know that my ability to serve in this way begins with the time I offer to God…to know God…to hear God…to simply sit in silence with God. If I’m not engaged with God in this way, I’m just “doing church.”