Similar to this blog post, there is the occasional ministerial idea with which one struggles with knowing where to start. What committee can coordinate this? Is there enough in the budget for this? If so, what line-item do we use? Who’s an expert on this subject? What PR pieces are needed? What’s our church’s history with ideas similar to this one? What skill sets are needed to pull this off well? Is the fellowship hall already booked that day? In the slew of questions that usually catapult us towards a solid execution, Henri Nouwen counters this rush with an invitation to pause (say what?!) and seek the Holy Spirit’s perspective.

“So often in ministry, I wanted to do it by myself. If it didn’t work, I went to others and said, “Please!” Searching for a community to help me. If that didn’t work, maybe I’d start praying. But the order that Jesus teaches us [in Luke 6:12-19] is the reverse. It begins with being with God in solitude; then it creates a fellowship, a community of people with whom the mission is being lived; and finally this community goes out together to heal and to proclaim good news.” (Leadership Magazine Spring 1995)

Ministry must begin with solitude because it is in this sacred space where we claim our belovedness in Christ. With this, one can handle any amount of failure or success (and the stress that accompanies both). Moments with God alone gradually rid us of any need to prove anything to anyone; because we are already beloved. This freedom permits us to authentically guide others in discovering their belovedness.

Similar to Jesus praying all night on a mountaintop, culminating his community of disciples, and then ministering together around Judea in Luke 6, our strongest start for 2017 is to make time to be with God and God alone.

Due to the variety of personalities, life stages, and daily rhythms the spiritual discipline of solitude will look different for everyone . For some it will be during long commutes, for others, it might be walking around the lake. My time of solitude is in the still hours of the morning. Ever since Lent last year, I decreased my nightly TV time by an hour so I could wake up early for prayer and study. While my family is still asleep I rediscover my belovedness at my kitchen table. Spotify’s “Deep focus” station, Starbucks’ “Breakfast Blend”, and my Doterra oil diffuser set the stage for a sacred time of solitude. I open up my the Upper Room’s “Disciplines” and dive into The Word heart first.

It is in these mountaintop moments that the questions worth asking and the path towards the answers reside. The following are some for 2017 that have bubbled up recently at my kitchen table. I pray they add to your moments of solitude as they have mine. May the Holy Spirit speak to you through questions and in time, the answers.

  • Are the children’s and family ministry team members serving out of their gifts/talents?
  • Is joy easily cultivated while CFM teammates serve? How can I better support them in this endeavor?
  • I have entered a holy covenant with my staff. There will be days when loving will not come easily. Am I in tune with the Holy Spirit in my efforts to love them well?
  • April 16th will be here soon. In what relative and holistic ways can the story of the Cross and the Empty Tomb be taught to our children and families?
  • Like a “city on a hill”, Vacation Bible School must stand out as different than any other week of their summer. It needs to be an out-of-this-world (i.e.-not of this world – Romans 12:2), formative experience. What values of our team do not align with this God-driven goal?
  • Is there someone I love that is living in “darkness”? Am I avoiding an uncomfortable conversation with them because I have forgotten that Christ calls me to take the healing light into the world? Is it possible that God has created me for such a time as this? Am I needed to speak life and light into this moment? Do I know that darkness cannot overcome light?
  • Are there portions of my heart that need to be purified? Any thoughts or feelings that reveal my own brokenness? Have I repented over these lately?
  • As I peek into the new year, are there any seasons that could unintentionally threaten my discipline of solitude? How is the Holy Spirit guiding me to protect this time?