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I've been blogging a short series about our inner life, discipleship, community, and ministry, inspired by an article by Henri Nouwen years ago in the Spring 1995 issue of Leadership. Find the most recent blog here.

A short excerpt from the blog that you may find interesting:

It seems to me that in today's church culture, we put everything else in front of solitude.

  • Some put discipleship first. They say it all starts here. That we have to teach people how to grow and serve and share their faith.
  • Some put evangelism first. Our first priority, they say, is to carry out the mission to make disciples.
  • Some put leadership first. Everything begins with leaders who model the abundant life and bring others along, right?
  • Some put community first. After all, they say, all of this good stuff happens in the environment of authentic Biblical community. So we have to build small groups.

Jesus said, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." We seek God's Kingdom by being committed to the King.

Pleasr check out the rest of the blog here and I'd love to hear what you think.

Feel free to subscribe to my Small Group Leadership blog at http://smallgroupleadership.blogspot.com/.

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Comment by Michael Mack on November 8, 2010 at 9:21pm
Tony and Ann, thanks so much for your comments. Very encouraging to me! Tony, I love the image of the air mask on an airplane; this is so true! Ann, you're right about the cycles of the seasons and even our days. I think of the cycle God built into the week. He created for 6 days and then rested. I'm not so good at that. I wonder how many leaders take time away to spend time alone with God--more than just a half hour early in the morning, although that is great--but maybe a night in prayer or a day away in the woods. I need it and need more of it!
Comment by Ann H. LeFevre on November 8, 2010 at 8:22pm
Michael I enjoyed reading your full article on the blogspot. I am one who sometimes prefers the time of solitude with the Lord over the actual time of ministry (sort of like those who enjoy the anticipation of a holiday like Christmas over the actual day!). But this is not healthy, nor is running into ministry full-tilt without the time you spend with the Lord before you set out on His latest calling in your life. There must be a balance. The best example of this, to me, is the seasons. In my own life it seems I pass through winters, those quiet times where God speaks to me and my activity is dormant; spring where I sense He is directing me to step out in faith once again; summer, the height of my industry; and autumn, the season I see the fruits of my labor and His nourishment come forth. Like the cycle of a day, solitude is necessary for our heart, soul, mind and strength. Without it, we run the risk of fully exhausting ourselves and being useless vessels in God's plan. I enjoyed your article. It confirmed to me, that the new work God has begun in my life, began on the right note- a time of reflection on a completed job, and supplication for a new one in which God would help me to grow and use the gifts, talents and resources He gave to me. I hope and pray other leaders will see the value in what you wrote, and set aside of time of solitude for themselves so that they too will be refreshed by the Father.
Comment by Tony on November 8, 2010 at 7:40pm
The principle is quite simple; I must be filled before I can be poured out.
It's like the emergency air mask on commercial flights. The instructions say put your own mask on first before you try to help anyone else. We are all are totally inadequate without a connection to Christ power and the Holy Spirit's work in our own lives.
Once we are filled ourselves we need to disciple, teach etc... others to repeat the process we are all working through.
Comment by Michael Mack on November 8, 2010 at 8:39am
I totally agree with you, George. This is really just a matter of perspective. I did not explain in my brief post here what I think my full post communicates a little more clearly. I'm really talking to leaders and more fully devoted followers here. As leaders, our first priority is to spend time with God, and we need to get away with him in solitude, like Jesus often did, to accomplish this. As leaders, our teaching, discipling, mentoring, evanglizing, serving ... all come from the overflow of our hearts that primarily comes from time spent with the Father.

My Small Group Leadership blog is written mainly to leaders, so I did not differentiate this enough. So, yes, let's teach people how to have an intimate relationship with God, how to spend time alone with him as well as in community. But as leaders, let's make sure we're modeling that ourselves.
Comment by George Krickl on November 8, 2010 at 12:09am
How do we expect people to practice solitude without teaching them...or telling them they should practice it? Am I being silly here? I go to a Bible preaching church that teaches the Bible verse by verse. Do they talk about solitude? Yes when it comes up in Scripture. So when I think of discipleship I am thinking that hands on teaching of what it means to be Christian and how to pursue Christlikeness. Is the practice of solitude important? Yes it is. Should it be taught. Yes. But it cannot be practiced without being taught. So I think discipleship comes first, or concurrently if you want to look at it that way.

People that are new to the Christian faith have no clue as to what the various spiritual disciplines are. They need to be taught. That is why many people are in this forum. They have not been taught themselves or they don't see other people being taught.

Bottom line is that teaching on practicing solitude should be included in discipleship not outside it or it will never be put into practice.

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