During our VP3 Webinar: Barriers to Spiritual Growth on Wednesday, I was struck by the panelists’ and audience’s interest in discussing busyness as a chief barrier to maturity in our faith communities. I found myself later in the afternoon returning to the question, what does a busy pace do that so frustrates our maturity?
It seems the relationship of busyness to Christian maturity boils down to the issues of attention and distraction. On the whole, we certainly are busy, busy people. We have meetings to attend, dinners to prepare, children to pick up, papers to finish, vacations to plan, projects to complete, things to maintain and repair, sermons to preach, houses to clean, lunch appointments to keep, on and on. Life presses in on us and, perhaps instinctively, we do all we can to press back. Many good things and important things stack up, and we busy ourselves with such things. In time, these many things shape our schedules and even our consciousnesses into a form that is ill suited to an attentive life.
When it comes to our capacities for a pace that is life giving, people reflect a wide range of differences. Some people move more deliberately and slowly, others simply move faster due to a variety of factors including stage of life or capability or temperament. So there is not a one-size-fits-all prescribed or preferred pace.
What we must pay close attention to, though, is the interrelationship between our pace and our attentiveness. The great danger in all of this is that the pace of our lives squeezes out critical human concerns (e.g. community well being, job effectiveness, parenting children, a flourishing inner life, a God consciousness, kingdom-responsibility). Whether we are Christians or not, we are all vulnerable to living a way of life that fails to pay attention to the most important things in life. A rushed or hurried or frenetic pace most often blurs our attention and causes us to overlook all sorts of things and people.
It is quite a deal when you discover something new from something familiar. You may have driven by that section of the forest a 110 times, and yet this time you noticed that one particular tree slightly hidden but somehow on this one day more obvious than all the others. The unique color and type set it apart from the rest. It is so obvious. Makes you wonder why you had not really seen it before. Your perspective of that familiar bush is slightly and refreshingly different because of the one very obvious tree that caught your attention.
It is helpful from time to time to take a closer look in order to see the tree in the forest. And when we do it often has the capacity to change the way we see the forest, making it seem refreshingly new.
Over the past number of years I have had the privilege of spending time with pastors, staffs and sharp lay leaders discussing how the VP3 processes have created a good sort of stirring. The amount of consistent lives changed has cued them to scootch up to their balcony to get a broader perspective of what is happening within their setting regarding the formation of their adults.
When I met with these good people, I would often think of other good people who were hanging out in their particular balcony, and believed that somehow these same perspective seekers could learn from one another. As good as it was to visit each of their settings offering a question or word of advice, I felt the nudge to invite them to come together away from their setting in order to pay attention to what they noticed from their balconies, to trust what they found themselves caring about, and to come up with a way to address what they now noticed from the balcony.
I uncovered in graduate school, and now practice almost every day, the deeply held belief that when adults gather together, “the answers are in the room.”
My favorite adult education professor would tell you “the answers are in the room” means that the rich experiences which shape the lives of adults gives us the capacity for outstanding problem solving and the ability to see into our settings and know far more than we initially deem possible.
At a recent VantagePoint3 Enriching Retreat in Green Lake, Wisconsin, I witnessed this depth when adults work together. More than 40 adults who care deeply about their churches and people, confirmed once again that “the answers are in the room” but much more than this. They confirmed the evidence for the Spiritual Kingdom that is already alive in the hearts of believers.
Let me explain.
At the close of the second full day we were processing together what we were each seeing and learning. I was leading the group through pretty complex layers of reflection on individual spiritual growth, care for others, and care for our church settings. I asked everyone to simply write down on an index card what they were seeing and learning while the session was finishing up. We wrote in silence.
The most significant book I have read in the past two years has to be Eugene Peterson’s The
Pastor: A Memoir. It is the story of his formation and his vocation as pastor. If you are not acquainted with Peterson or only acquainted with his contemporary translation The Message, then The Pastor would be a great place to start getting to know this important author. The book provides so many directions for fruitful reflection, conversation and prayer whether you are a pastor or not. The one thought in particular that keeps on grabbing my attention is in his Letter to a Young Pastor found at the end of the memoir.
Jason Koleba is the lead pastor at Cochrane Alliance Church in Cochrane, Alberta. If you get a chance to hang out with Jason, before you reach the end of your grande coffee you get a sense that he is a person in love with Jesus and His way in the world. In fact, a concern for unleashing the church to live more missionally is a significant part of Jason’s signature, and why he knows the importance of investing in the deepening and empowering of those who call Cochrane Alliance their home.
The following are some words of encouragement and challenge he offered to those whom he had been walking alongside over the past three years, helping them discover more deeply who God is, who they are, and what God desires to do through their lives for the Kingdom. To be honest, I find myself prayerfully hoping for similar words and letters to be given by more pastors across North America. The church would become an attractive community again if such “walkingalongsideness” were practiced.
I have been re-reading the Bible. It’s been a while since I’ve read it from ding to dong. Usually my intake of the Word is guided by a bit of a gut check to be honest with what book of the Bible or passage I need to land on for a bit. And I have never been disappointed in the Spirit’s way of timing what I read with the particulars of my life. Maybe that’s part of the “living and active” thing.
I’ve been making my way through Genesis over the past several weeks. There have been many foundational blocks laid in Genesis that our faith has been built upon, held together by the mortar of God’s Spirit. Quite frankly, I have found myself saying to myself many times on this read through, “Holy moly. Talk about your crazy narratives and timelines!”
Next month begins a season of Block A training retreats for those who are facilitating The Emerging Journey and The Equipping Experience groups in the fall. For those who are new to VP3, attending one of the Facilitator Training Retreats is the first step in implementing the VP3 processes in your ministry setting. And it is not too late to sign up for one of these practical and ministry-shaping events!
In case you needed some encouragement about the value of the Facilitator Training Retreat, I invite you to read Norm Grube’s comments when I asked him, “Was the Facilitator Training Retreat valuable to your group and to your own spiritual development?”
We are a few months away from an annual highlight on our VP3 calendar The Enriching Retreat.
We are gathering at a U.S. location this year, Green Lake, Wisconsin (October 5-7, 2012) for a time of shared reflection and discussion, pause and prayer. Randy Reese and I will be inviting a conversation around the topic of “Guiding Others on Their Leadership Journey.” For so many of us the Spirit is inviting us to pay attention, to move beyond the work of leading to the work of developing and guiding others as leaders. For others of us we are needing time to slow down and to reflect upon what the Lord is up to in our context and in our person. How can we help our communities pay attention and discover God’s good work with us and among us? We are excited that this years conversation will flow out of our forthcoming book Deep Mentoring: Guiding Others on Their Leadership Journey (IVP, to be released October 2012). We hope you and folks from your community will consider joining us for this unique opportunity. All of this is offered in the beautiful autumn setting of the Green Lake Conference Center. We are prayerfully looking forward to the conversation that develops at this year’s retreat. Click here for details…
It is a good practice to glean what you can from those who know how to practice well. Last week VP3 hosted a webinar called, “Best Practices in Local Church Leadership Development.” Three panelists joined our time to share what they have learned over the years regarding an investment in the formation of those within their local communities. Pam, Kent and Beth are seasoned at knowing how to notice the particulars of those whom they walk alongside. All three know how to “call out” what they see dormant in peoples’ lives. They are careful, yet direct in making appropriate and tailored prescriptions, helping people move toward a better place of maturity and a truer place of service. Quite frankly, I was impressed with the practices they keep in this sometimes misunderstood deal of leadership development. Their practice grows from a conviction that leadership development from a Christian perspective is first and always tethered to helping people tend to their followership to Jesus Christ. You will benefit from listening in on what they said. Here are some highlights…