Pastors, Time Alone …

From Matt Woodley, at Out of Ur:

How have you learned to get away? To find time alone?

I just watched the Pentecostal preacher Jim Cymbala give an altar call and about 400 Baptist pastors came forward for prayer. Here’s what happened.

Cymbala told a moving story about his young grandson, an adopted child from Ethiopia named Levi. When Levi was two-years old, Cymbala loved holding him in his lap. They didn’t have to do anything; they just sat together. Sometimes they rocked in a chair and watched SpongeBob Squarepants. But the point wasn’t to do something with Levi; the point was to be with Levi.

Cymbala used this story (and his preaching text) to make a simple point: Jesus invites us to be with him–and sometimes that’s the only “agenda” for our spiritual lives. Cymbala called it “sitting in his presence and listening to him.” There’s a big implications to this for pastoral leaders: we can’t give to people what we haven’t received from Jesus. So if we’re not regularly listening to Jesus, just being with Jesus, receiving from Jesus, then we won’t have much to give away to others.

Then Cymbala invited pastors and anyone else to come forward if we need to start spending more time being with and listening to Jesus. And that’s when about half of the 800 people started streaming forward. Cymbala didn’t have to cajole anyone; people came quickly and willingly. Based on this experience I’d conclude that evangelicals–especially leaders and pastors–are hungry to be with Jesus.

I wonder, though, if we can actually sustain this practice–this commitment to carve out time and space to be with Jesus on a regular basis—in the midst of our present evangelical milieu. I’ve been to two large, important evangelical conferences lately and they were very different but they had something in common: they were both stuffed with busyness, noise, and information–lots of information. Both conferences had so many incredible speakers on the schedule, so many new books to read, so many products to check out, and so much noise in the worship times that we just didn’t have time to be with Jesus (although we did have time to talk about being with Jesus).

Don’t get me wrong. I liked the content. I thought the messages were spectacular. But after awhile I felt like I need to detox from the noise and hype by checking into a Benedictine monastery for a few days? It’s almost like we can’t believe that God can actually do something unless we’re talking about God doing something. Do we have such great faith in the power of words and information that we can’t trust God to speak in our silence?


"Evidently we disagree greatly on the Flood: what it was and its significance.The book by ..."

It is Hyperbole. (RJS)
"If that is what you meant you should have said "discourage and limit women doing ..."

Weekly Meanderings, 19 May 2018
"Hi Sal,The issue here in this story and text is people, not geography. Noah and ..."

It is Hyperbole. (RJS)
"“There are some fascinating studies done over the last several years about the many problems ..."

Death of the Church 4 (Todd ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • It’s been my experience that evangelical “retreats” are poorly named, because as the author points out, there is a full schedule of words and noise. Fortunately, the Benedictines are great practicers of hospitality! I would recommend retreating with them any time one has the opportunity!

  • That sounds a lot like quietism to me. If “being with Jesus” ONLY means sitting quietly with my coffee and Bible and worship music or whatever–and that the point of the whole thing is to FEEL loved–then we might as well walk away from the notion that we are being transformed in order that we might DO something. Now, if the point of this is to retreat for a bit in order to be grounded and recharged so that we might go back into the world and incarnate Christ to people, then great! Count me in. I just want to make sure we understand that Jesus isn’t only present with me when my eyes are closed and worship music plays in the background. He is present in the other every bit as much.

  • “if the point of this is to retreat for a bit in order to be grounded and recharged so that we might go back into the world and incarnate Christ to people, then great!”

    This is how I see it.
    We retreat b/c we’re on mission.
    Every mission needs a retreat.
    Retreat isn’t the mission, it’s along the way with mission.

    I think we’ve missed that.

    So retreat is only talking about mission, when retreat should be refueling to go out again. But you don’t refuel with more mission, but with energy.

    We end up finding ourselves not being able to give anything to people but more mission. So we don’t invite people to Christ, but to activity. Following Jesus includes mission, but not the other way around.

  • rick

    I’ve been going to an Anglican church for the last 5 years and have found that the liturgy and prayers and scripture and especially the eucharist has helped my be with Jesus more than anything else.

  • Will Varner

    Vance Havner used to say in that deep south drawl. “Jesus said to ‘come apart.’ If we don’t come apart, then we will eventually come apart!” AMEN

  • Percival

    Greg #2,
    What’s wrong with quietism? It seems preferable to loud-ism.

  • davey

    grounded, recharged, refuelled

    What do these mean in practical terms, can somebody put flesh on it please. Does it mean just resting. Or can anybody say what else they have got from just being with Jesus.

  • I take guys from my church on a silent retreat each year as part of a year long discipleship program. Every time I’m stunned at the profound ways the guys hear from God. No speaker, no band, but guys discover they can be with Jesus.

  • I think the slightly embarrassing reality I’ve observed amongst my friends in pastoral positions is they don’t honestly know what to do when they are alone. I recently shared with another pastor the nourishment of having a couple days of silence at a nearby monastery and he responded “I wouldn’t know what the heck to do with 2 days of silence!”

    I think for many driven, commentary-loving, org-chart-creating pastors meditation, silence and stillness with God intimidates them. So they avoid it.

    It’s almost like they need guided, step-by-step, apprenticing in how to steward stillness.