Jan 17, 2008

Why I stink at this Christian life thing

Alright, I 'm back from New Orleans and my 3 day seminar. I took a seminar entitled "Spiritual Formation and the Minister". It was a seminar designed around the concept of the importance of spiritual growth for both the pastor and the congregation. For spiritual health and vitality in a church, the minister must be aware of his own spiritual soul and cultivate the habits and disciplines necessary for a growing Christian life and for the formation of the life and character of Christ within his own soul. I learned early on in ministry that I can never take anyone in my ministry deeper than I have mined myself.

Let me be the first to admit - when it comes to spiritual disciplines and consistency - I stink. I have never been able to cultivate consistent spiritual disciplines. And it bothers me. First of all, let's take just the daily reading of Scripture. I am very inconsistent in reading the Bible. One of the problems is that I am a minister and I can read the Bible in my office for a living. As a matter of fact, if people walk by my office and see me reading the Bible, the assume I am being holy and doing what they pay me to do. If I were an accountant and people walked by my office and always saw me reading the Bible they would say, "Hey, I know you are a Christian, but shouldn't you be reading some flowcharts or ledgers every so often?" However, as a pastor, you can just sit an open Bible on your desk and everyone assumes you are walking with the cherubim and seraphim. It's easy to fool everyone. As a matter of fact, I got a new "one year" Bible for Christmas. One of those ones where the Bible is broken down into 365 days and you read what it tells you to. I made it to Jan 3 this year.

Don't get me wrong. I read the Bible. Just not enough, and certainly not enough to cultivate it as a discipline. However, I don't beat myself up about it. I think it's just as wrong to read the Bible for some legalistic reason or because I am a pastor and because we have more holiness than anyone else (yeah right), then I have to read it everyday.

Then take journaling. I radically suck at journaling. This shouldn't surprise you if you read my blog regularly because I radically suck at putting anything of content down here. Here's the truth. I currently own at least 3 journals that I have bought over the years. Each one of them has about 2 personal entries in the front of them. Then, they have some sermon notes. But nothing really past page 5. Guess what I bought at the end of last year? A new journal. I went with the smaller kind telling myself it would be easier to keep. It's in my backpack and 17 days into the year, not one entry.

Fasting - one look at my body and you can see the problem with that. I've tried fasting 4-5 times. I usually make it to about 2 o' clock and then I binge on donuts and nutty bars.

Solitude - come on. I have 3 boys (stooges I call them) under 9 years of age. I haven't seen anything close to solitude since Monica Lewinsky was a White House Intern. And when I do get a few moments quiet, it's so creepy I have to turn on the TV to keep from getting spooked out.

Meditation - Because I don't read the Bible enough, I don't usually have a lot in there for meditation.

Anyway, you see the point. I stink at spiritual disciplines. However, I realize I stink and have made some small progress lately. After this seminar, I am a little more hopeful that some of these disciplines will see some progress soon. The truth is that God knows how much I stink at these things more than I do. And He's teaching me each and every day how vital it is to feed my own soul. So, I'm looking forward to finishing the readings for this class and setting out a plan to incorporate some of these practices a little at a time.

On another note, I have been storing up some thoughts lately on a lot of stuff about the current state of American Christianity and the church lately. Excuse some of the rants that may come down the pike pretty soon. I just keep hearing way too much from church goers that sound very different from the words of Paul and Jesus and it's really starting to bug me. So, you may hear some of this soon.