O begin! A new year in discipline

O begin! A new year in discipline

Several years ago I read the book, “Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity,” by Eugene Peterson. I was intrigued by a question that Peterson posed for clergy: “Has anyone ever asked you if you pray; do you read the scriptures; and do you feel competent to give spiritual guidance?”

In more than 30 years of ministry, I don’t recall ever being asked this by a pastor-parish relations committee, district superintendent, or anyone else. Yet, I realize that my own prayer life and reading of scripture empower me to ministry -- not on my behalf, but on behalf of Christ.

A dear friend of mine, who preached many revivals, always ended each revival night with these words: “No prayer, no power. Little prayer, little power. Much prayer, much power. More prayer, more power!” This is not only true for clergy but also for laity.

I am a strong believer in the Ephesians 4 model of ministry, which calls on clergy to equip the people for ministry. The best way to equip others is to model the behavior you want to cultivate in others. We all long for a deeper spiritual walk with God, but longing alone won’t make it happen. A deeper spiritual life cannot grow without deeper daily devotion to God’s word and prayer.

I believe that 2009 will challenge Christians to not only talk the talk, but to walk the walk. I also believe that thousands of people around us will be reaching out to discover God in a power and might that we cannot give if we don’t possess it ourselves. Therefore, I challenge Holston clergy and laity to join me in strengthening our relationship with the Lord so that others may see our good works and give glory to God.

Beginning Jan. 1, I will use Bishop Reuben Job’s “Three Simple Rules Daily Planner” to aid my prayer life and scripture reading. I ask that you join me in this discipline.

In his introduction to the planner, Bishop Job writes, “The Three Simple Rules Planner for 2009 … is intended as a daily help to combine exploring John Wesley’s three simple rules in your daily life with Scripture, prayer, and your daily planning.” Job’s planner offers us a disciplined way to grow together and encourage each other to grow in Christ. Please join me – not as a means to find new sermon topics or to win arguments about the Bible – but as a way to tap into the spiritual resources of the Bible and daily conversations with the Lord.

Bishop Job seeks to encourage us with the words of a letter written by John Wesley to a Mr. John Trembath:

O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may require the taste for which you have not: What is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way … Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian together. Then will the children of God rejoice.

I will read the Bible along with you and pray with you each day. If we do this together, perhaps 2009 will hold more joy for us than we can we imagine.