Over the past several months, we’ve been exploring what it means to plant a church. The verbiage of calling it a “church plant” isn’t trivial or accidental. Planting requires cultivating soil, casting seed, watering, and harvesting. Even at this stage in the process, we’re finding that planting takes significant amounts of time, energy, and resources. Clearly, we’re not looking at an overnight process. We’re learning that before God does something through us, He first wants to do something in us. He wants to work deeply in you so He can work clearly through you. God has used this process in me personally to teach me so much about patience and waiting on Him to open doors.
Everything is quick service in our culture. From how we order food at restaurants to how we get our oil changed in our car, we are taught that waiting is painful. As technology has advanced, we have had to less waiting and as a result, live in a constant state of stimulation. We have even come to a point where we might actually believe that boredom is equivalent to torture. In today’s world, we’ve not previously had to develop patience.
Until COVID-19 hit this past week…
In an effort to stop the spread of the virus and ensure that those who become infected are able to receive the healthcare they need, people have gone on lockdown. For many of us, we find ourselves at home without a whole lot to do (For others, this is the most tense and hectic time in your careers..Maybe file this blog away for another time.. 👍🏻). While there are certainly challenges and hurdles that have come as a result of this virus outbreak, there are also opportunities to focus on areas of life that had previously gone ignored. What if God wanted to use your life for His Kingdom in a way that requires this unique season of spiritual cultivation?
In this season as you socially distancing yourself, however long it may last, I want to challenge you to approach aspects of it like your own personal spiritual sabbatical. I want to challenge you to use this time to allow God to work on your life while you’re not having to work as much in your life. In a season of decreased busyness, use this extra time to do soul work rather than binge watch Designated Survivor on Netflix (trust me, you’ll hate the ending.. I promise..).
So, how can we get the most out of this time? Here are three things that will help you maximize this time:
1. Commit to the spiritual disciplines (a daily Bible intake, scripture memorization, prayer, journaling, fasting, stewardship, confession, study, etc. . .) When there isn’t a sense urgency, we can often slip into laziness. This laziness isn’t intentional; rather, when we lack a structure, it just seems to happen. By being intentional to set an appointment with God for a regular time with him in His Word, we find that He regularly meets us and aligns our hearts with His own. We know that we’re not saved because of how often we have a “quiet time”; however, our time alone with God produces in us a greater love and affection. I love what Donald Whitney shares in his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life: “But even though disciplining yourself is sometimes difficult and involves struggle, self-discipline is not self-punishment. It is instead an attempt to do what, prompted by the Spirit, you actually want in your heart to do.” Growth and maturity are both directly correlated with time spent with God in His Word and in prayer. Neither Netflix nor scrolling through your phone are necessarily wrong, the neglect of reading God’s Word is. In these times of increased anxiety and stress with little on the calendar, it would be easy to fill our hearts and minds with things that aren’t going to produce life in us. Remember what Paul says in Galatians 6:8-9: 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
The Bible Project is a great and free resource that I have really enjoyed. They have quick illustrative videos that do a fantastic job giving overview to books of the Bible, themes, word, and more! You can also find all of their videos by searching Bible Project on YouTube. Here is a good introductory series of videos about how to read the Bible. It's a great tool that is great for both adults and children!
Let’s embrace this time where we are able to spend more time with the Lord!
2. Read books that will help you explore personal growth areas In addition to reading Scripture, we live in a day when there are more resources available than at any other point in human history. I’ve learned so much by going through books that have a strong theological basis. With resources like Kindle and Audible, acquiring quality books is easy and you can read or listen almost anywhere! Gifted authors can help provide important commentary on Scripture that provides a different perspective to life’s everyday problems. Challenge yourself to turn off your phone or TV and read. It’ll calm your nerves and will push you forward in your Christian walk. A few books I’ve recently found helpful are:
Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley
Vulnerability: Blessing in the Beatitudes by Brad Hambrick
The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer
Finding God’s Will by Gregg Matte
Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill
3. Listen to biblical preaching We have so much to be thankful in this day of technology! One of the best ways to use technology is to listen to biblical preaching that helps recalibrate your heart and giving you a proper perspective. Like reading, faithful preachers provide encouragement and insight from God’s Word. As you listen and are encouraged, pass along helpful messages on social media so that others can be encouraged. We really live in a unique time when there is unprecedented accessibility to resources. In these days, when people are at home and bored, you never know who will click and watch a message and hear the Gospel communicated clearly for the first time. We should be praying and sharing that this time isn’t in vain; rather, we should trust that the Holy Spirit is active and working by drawing all men to Himself. Here are a few messages that have been especially impactful to me over the past several years:
The Father Heart of God - Brody Holloway
Boasting Only in the Cross - John Piper
God’s Godness - Matt Chandler
Write This Down - Andy Stanley
Finding Hope in our Anxiety - Gregg Matte
Work and Rest - Tim Keller
I’m Not Okay…But Jesus is - Louie Giglio
My prayer for you in this time is that you would draw close to the Lord in this time. Planting a church requires seasons of cultivating, watering, casting seed, and harvesting. Planting a life rooted in the Gospel takes similar effort. We can't expect overnight maturity. Is it possible God desires to redeem this time of social distancing so that we could draw near to Him?
Pray that He would speak to you through His Word and the resources that are available. If you don’t have a history of spiritual discipline, start small with just a few minutes of Bible reading a day. As you read, your affection for God will grow, which in turn, will increase your desire to spend time with God. He is near and wants to use this time to bring you in close. He loves you deeply and wants to walk through this time with you!