Why the Christian Must Model Slow


I used to live in a little cabin in the woods. Just me. I would walk there after quitting time, cook my meal for one, hand clean and dry my dishes, and settle in for the evening.

That simple housework amid solitude proved to be some of the holiest times I’ve experienced in my life. To this day, I can think of few mountaintop experiences with God that matched the simple joy of making food and cleaning up afterward in His presence. It was slow work, never hurried. While it asked for concentration on the task, I never felt overwhlemed. I did, however, feel holiness in the moment.

Something in those basic, careful actions in a quiet cabin in the woods centered me on God. He was there. Always. I could feel Him connecting with me in my doing.

I don’t believe most people today ever experience that kind of focused yet unhurried connection with God in their work. It’s one reason why so many people see their jobs as soul-inhibiting. Paycheck, yes. Personal meaning, no.

Much has been written concerning the recent New York Times piece on the frenetic atmosphere at Amazon. Frankly, I think many people will wonder at the singling out of Amazon, given how blender-like corporate life has become for everyone.

People in a blenderWhat’s the most commonly used phrase in job postings today? I’ll cast my lot for fast-paced environment. It’s ubiquitous, a badge of corporate honor. Businesses stopped pushing the blender’s Stir button and progressed with boasting to Liquify.

What’s being “liquified” is people.

Let’s get real here: Fast-paced environment most likely expresses itself as a needlessly disorganized workplace that is understaffed and poorly managed at all levels due to horrendous forecasting and unrealistic expectations. Companies use that phrase with pride when they should instead be soberly calling it failure and correcting it.

Yes, I went there.

I’m not alone, though, as the NYT Amazon article and this one, “Work Hard, Live Well,” show us. Our harried work lives are getting noticed as a negative. Finally.

Beyond our jobs, the general pace of life is killing us as well. Too much incoming data to process. Too many commitments. Too much striving to stay on top. Too much structure to maintain. Too much need to control. Too much.

We can’t live in a perpetual state of being overwhelmed and still maintain our mental and physical health. It’s time to stop lying to ourselves about what we can and cannot do.

We were not created by God to be little flesh-bundles of process optimization. Being counts as much, or more, than doing.

The blur that is our daily existence leaves no room for God. This lie that we can cram an entire day’s spirituality into a 15-minute quiet time is just that: a lie. And it always has been, despite whatever some nationally recognized pastor, spiritual leader, Christian author, or life coach says.

Why? Because God is to be found in EVERY moment. In something as basic as cooking dinner for one. Or in handwashing the dishes.

Julie, a friend and essayist in the vein of Annie Dillard, rebooted her Lone Prairie site and elected to hand code the HTML and CSS. Most would say that’s the hard way.

But some would contend it’s the way God connects with us in our work. It’s slow. It may even be tedious. Yet I think that pulling back from the most optimized, GTD-approved way is how we can reconnect with the holiness of our professions. It’s how we can slow down enough to find not only ourselves but God.

If we Christians are not the people who stay off the dance floor when the world says mambo or who cannot laugh in the face of demanded mourning, who will?

Christians are supposed to be the most countercultural of all people, yet more often than not, we American Christians, through a grace-less misunderstanding of responsibility, instead lead the parade toward dis-ease.

Slowing down enough to find God in more than just the “holy moments” but in ALL of the day will cost us. It must.

If lost people are going to find God, we Christians must be the examples of how to connect with Him. If we’re racing around like headless chickens, we will have no time for perception and observation, either of the natural world which God created or of the spiritual one, where He is found. Neither will we have time to process the crucial connections between the two, where wisdom dwells. We will instead become blind guides. There won’t be any counterculture left, only concession to the deaf and dumb spirits of the age.

“I’ll rest when I’m dead” is no statement of integrity but of stupidity. Christian, find ways to slow down or risk losing everything that truly matters.

Once off the highway and on the backroads, we’ll find God on the curves, near that spot with the stunning vista. Take time to stand there and breathe. That’s where redemption abides.

Advice Is Not Prayer


Intercessory prayerYesterday, I wrote about praying instead of sharing indignation in public (“View from a Glass House“).

Today, I want to add to that by discussing perhaps the oddest behavior I’ve seen in people who supposedly profess Christ, especially those who are male.

Whenever men share prayer requests in a group, a curious thing often occurs. If the prayer time is an hour, men will spend 55 minutes giving advice on how to fix the problems mentioned in the prayer requests and only about 5 minutes actually praying. This is especially true in all-male small groups.

Now, we know men are by nature all Mr. Fix-It. The universal joke among married women is that husbands immediately want to jump in and correct any problem the wife mentions, when all the wife wants is someone to listen. To men, listening to the problem doesn’t solve anything; doing something about it does.

The same thought process seems true in prayer time, as the mentality of “no point in listening further, we know what to fix” becomes “no point in praying, because we have just the answer for the problem.” In fact, about the only time men jump into praying about a prayer need is when everyone is stumped as to a practical solution. Prayer becomes the tragic admission that we guys didn’t have a bright idea this time.

Advice is not prayer, though. And if God is God—and He is—He may have a solution through prayer that is far above and beyond any man-made advice we may offer. In fact, I wonder if we sometimes settle for the good through man-made advice when we could have had the best wrought by God through prayer alone.

It has taken me several decades to realize I don’t have a clue, but God does. When someone comes to me with a prayer need, I stifle any pretense of offering my “wisdom” and just go for prayer. If during prayer God brings sound advice to my mind, I will share it. But prayer must be trusted first and not second.

We say that prayer is the most powerful action in the cosmos we Christian can take, and yet we treat it as a pathetic option of last resort.

Does Anyone Still Care About the Great Commission?


Over my break, I heard a young, Christian man tell an assembled crowd how he was forsaking his house, his job, and his former life to give everything for the cause that has captured his heart.

Usually, the passion of men and women on fire for a righteous cause enflames my own heart, but honestly, I was bored to tears and wanted to get up and leave.

It’s not because the cause wasn’t just and right and noble and oh so needed, but because I can no longer get fired up for any old cause within the Body of Christ—save one.

The amount of spam in my Cerulean Sanctum mailbox from Christian organizations lamenting the state/condition of this institution or that now overwhelms the legitimate email. I look at my inbox and see it as the perfect microcosm of where the Church in America is today. We’re like Don Quixote, and the  world is a vast plain strewn with windmills.

Tilt. Tilt. Tilt.

Funny thing about that young, Christian man I heard speak. At his age, I was zealous for the same cause he was. That’s not the case now. Old age is teaching me something.

Over my break, I watched a few episodes of Mythbusters. Being a science-y sort of guy, I find the show interesting and informative.

One of the phrases they used a lot in the episodes I saw was physics thought experiment, meaning that physicists had created an illustration based on scientific principles to explain a foundational concept in simple terms.

I want to attempt the same thing.

From what I can tell, there are 300,000 churches in the United States. Our population is close to 300 million. Roughly 40 percent of our population claims to attend church services on any given weekend. That’s about 120 million people who could be said to be Christians of some type. Doing the math yields an average local church size of about 400 people. That sounds like a reasonable number.

With a church of 400 people living out genuine Christian discipleship according to the Bible, how impossible would it be to think that those 400 would be used of God in a given year to lead 20 unbelievers to Christ? We’re talking a 5 percent conversion factor.

Now how is it, in reality, that in the average church of 400 people such a thing is unheard of?

Some will object and point to our children coming to Christ. Heaven help us, I hope that would be so—a given even—but I’m less concerned about the basics of a Christian husband and wife replacing themselves in the church pews via their two children (on average),  and more concerned with reaching people who would never otherwise darken the doorway of a church.

Fundamentally, I want to know why, of the myriad Christian causes of worth, the Great Commission—the one Jesus charged us with before He left this earth—has become the most neglected.

How is it that we can get whipped into a frenzy about aiding the poor, stopping same sex marriage, putting more conservatives into the halls of American power, and a million other causes, but the simple act of helping lead a lost soul to Christ is something we have neither time nor energy for?

Let’s be honest here. The Great Commission no longer compels us. The proof is right before our eyes, but we don’t want to see it.

I read ads for churches that proclaim that theirs is Spirit-filled. I hear Christians talking about charismatic gifts and soaking in the Spirit. Everyone seems to be about ushering in the Spirit during worship. We talk and talk and talk about the Spirit and being filled by Him.

But no surer sign exists for being Spirit-filled than having a burning desire to see the lost come to Christ. Being Spirit-filled awakens the Christian heart to the brutal emptiness of what it means to lack Christ. The stark division between having Christ and not having Him ends up driving the believer to share Christ with anyone who will listen.

That reality used to compel the saints of old. Christians would die to ensure that one more soul came to knowledge of Jesus. Believers gave everything they had, even their own lives, to ensure that no one would go into a Christless eternity.

Yet today, the Great Commission hardly charts on the primary cause list for most Christians.

A few years ago, I did another thought experiment in a post, wherein I computed that 4,212 people go into a Christless eternity every hour of every day. I’m sure that number is higher today.

I’m at a point in my life where I’m convinced that no cause we Christians can join trumps depopulating hell.

How is it, then, that this most important cause gets short shrift?

I see scores of people ready to radically change their lives to ensure more Republicans get into the Senate, but where are the people who forsake all so that one more person can come to know Jesus Christ?

What amazes me most of all is that many of the causes we give everything for would fix themselves if we just led more people to Jesus and trained them up to maturity.

So why don’t we do this?

My first post back from my break was going to be about freedom in Christ, and I’ll get to that soon enough. But at the very heart of freedom in Christ is dying to self. And being dead to self means no longer caring what others think of us. It’s no longer valuing what the rest of the world values. It’s realizing that eternal life is knowing Jesus, and only that matters.

That’s where we stumble in the Great Commission.

We haven’t made the choice to die to self.

We haven’t set aside the things of the world that distract us from the real work.

We don’t really know Jesus.

Don’t really know Jesus? Dan, how can you say that?

I say it because I’m increasingly aware it’s true. Most Americans Christians can’t share Jesus with another person because they don’t truly know Him. They know a few facts about Him, but that’s it. And when it comes to facts, I think average Christians would be much more likely to share their knowledge of their favorite hobby or sport than to share what little they know of Jesus.

So rather than appear to be ignorant before others of the very truth they supposedly wrap their lives around, most Christians say nothing.

I just can’t get away from that. Nothing else explains the utter lack of evangelistic fervor going on in “Christian America” 2011.

I’ve always felt my own calling was to discipling Christians to maturity, which is part of the Great Commission. But my lacks in evangelism are ever before me. I’m praying that 2011 will be the year that changes.

And that means dedicating this year to knowing Christ and making Him known.

Folks, no other cause trumps that. All others are pretenders to the throne.

God help us if we continue to fail to grasp this!

Note: I planned to include an image in this post, but every image of evangelism I could find online was clearly of evangelism occurring someplace other than in America. If that doesn’t make the point, I don’t know what can.