Pastor Dave Metsker
Pastoring an amazing group of dedicated people, I nevertheless grew weary. I carried the weight of speaking during the services most Sundays, noting a decline in income, strategizing again and then again, family priorities, counseling, leading, organizing, caring, and caring some more. Regrettably, in the midst of these, I found that my spiritual life was not keeping up with the demands of church leadership. I lamented, “How could this happen to me, the spiritual shepherd?”
This crossroads on my journey with Jesus caused me to go back to the basics. Distractions were aggressively addressed. I repented, understanding that a vibrant spiritual life remains indispensable. Following are a few things I learned as I renewed depth with Jesus.
The most important facet of life is our relationships with God. First, God initiated his relationship with us and longs to be intimate with us. He incomprehensibly sacrificed of his own son for us. Paul explains,
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8 NIV)
The foundation of spirituality rests, not in our meagre, dogged efforts, but in our response to God’s overwhelming, fatherly compassion. He highly values us (Psa. 86:15).
Fruitful ministry flows first of all out of the spiritual leader’s relationship with God, making an effective spiritual life unequivocally essential. Jesus explains,
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful…. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:1-5 NIV)
Paul laments, we will find people “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” This state is so onerous, he tells Timothy, the primary elder of the Ephesian church, “Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Tim. 3:5 NIV).
Therefore, the most crucial responsibility of a fruitful leader continues to be the maintenance of a vital, dynamic and powerful spiritual life. Jesus calls us to the heart of spirituality:
“The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NIV)
By definition a "spiritual person" actively engages in a range of disciplines through which he or she actually loves God and intimately relates to him, experiencing a spiritual order derived from God's response. Paul explains, Spiritual=Gr. pneuma, breath
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Rom. 8:5 NIV and see 4-14)
"Spiritual disciplines" are activities of mind and body purposefully undertaken by a follower of Jesus to bring his or her total being into effective cooperation with God and his Kingdom. Paul continues,Material for A and B from Willard, pp. 67-68.
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (Rom 6:11-13 NIV)
"Spirituality" at its simplest is the inner person united with the Holy Spirit:
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. (Rom.8:6 NIV)
The pattern we are so often accustomed to in the Western church, "church lite," engenders a shallow misrepresentation of biblical spirituality. As Paul clarifies,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom. 12:1-2 NIV)
We yearn for this posture of worship. In what ways has spirituality been difficult for you and others, and how have you especially increased your depth with Jesus?