Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

Peterson Ch. 2b: 3 things

Posted by flyingbk on 04/26/2016

It’s a “scandal,” in Peterson’s word, that pastors are busy. He provides three prescriptions to become unbusy. These are certainly three things in which I can improve.
1) A pastor who prays.
I want to be a person in this community to whom others can come without hesitation, without wondering if it is appropriate, to get direction in prayer and praying. I want to do the original work of being in deepening conversation with the God who reveals himself to me and addresses me by name…I don’t want to dispense mimeographed graphed hand-outs that describe God’s business; I want to witness out of my own experience. I don’t want to live as a parasite on the first-hand spiritual life of others, but to be personally involved with all my senses, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.
I preached recently on the famous story of Daniel in the Lions’ Den. Daniel 6:10 states, “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously (ESV, emphasis mine).” Praying three times a day was a daily practice for Daniel, and he had most likely done so for over 60 years.

Every so often, my mom gets on my case about my prayer like. She’ll ask me, “When do you pray?” and “How do you pray?” and I’ll reply curtly with deep thoughts like “I’m always praying throughout the day.” This is true, and certainly God’s presence is ever real and near. But my mom is right: There is power in concentrated prayer. There is power in unplugging myself from any distractions and focusing on the Lord. This is what Daniel did, and I need to do it more.

Peterson stresses the importance of being “personally involved with all my senses,” and that’s what leads to “tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.” I attend a monthly gathering of regional English Ministry pastors. At one meeting earlier this year, the hosting pastor had us spend five minutes simply closing our eyes and being silent before God. As one pastor at my table put it, “This was the best five minutes of my day so far.” We taste and see God and His goodness when we slow down and focus.

2) A pastor who preaches.
I have no interest in “delivering sermons,” challenging people to face the needs of the day or giving bright, inspirational messages. With the help provided by scholars and editors, I can prepare a fairly respectable sermon of either sort in a few hours each week, a sermon that will pass muster with most congregations. They might not think it the greatest sermon, but they would accept it. But what I want to do can’t be done that way. I need a drenching in Scripture; I require an immersion in biblical studies. I need reflective hours over the pages of Scripture as well as personal struggles with the meaning of Scripture. That takes far more time than it takes to prepare a sermon.

Oof, this is a challenging word. I’ve been in ministry for over a decade now, and I’ve preached many a sermon. I’ve established a nice weekly plan and rhythm when I need to prepare. I’ve got the technical requirements down pat.

But having the Word control me instead of having me control the Word? Ah, there’s the rub. I’m reminded of how in seminary, my preaching professor advised us to read the same Bible passage 30 times (or was it 50? I may be purposely understating the count). Only by reading it so often could we truly grasp the meaning of the text. But I think there’s another benefit: The point is not to get me into the Word, but get the Word into me. And then have that overflow easily be on display on Sunday.

3) A pastor who listens

Pastoral listening requires unhurried leisure, even if it’s only for five minutes. Leisure is a quality of spirit, not a quantity of time. Only in that ambiance of leisure do persons know they are listened to with absolute seriousness, treated with dignity and importance. Speaking to people does not have the same personal intensity as listening to them. The question I put to myself is not “How many people have you spoken to about Christ this week?” but “How many people have you listened to in Christ this week?”
When it comes to listening, I’m like a streak shooter in basketball (which I also happen to be). I have my good days, I have my bad days. I have my good weeks and months, I have my bad. And the formula is simple. When my mind is quiet, disciplined, unhurried instead of being distracted, harried, a hot mess… I am better at my job.

The key to better listening is not gritting my teeth and hyping myself up to improve. It’s not saying a quick inquiry for God’s aid before I meet someone. The key is spending time alone with God on the regular, like Daniel, ensuring that I am hearing from him (beginning with his ridiculously grace-filled opinion of me).

The bottom line: There is a wealth of strength and power in stillness. That’s why Psalm 46:10a (ESV) implores us to “Be still and know that I am God.”

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