Dr. Wayne Grudem, noted biblical scholar, professor, and author, shares an experience that may provide insight into what seems to be an epidemic of moral, ethical, and leadership failures of prominent Christian pastors, denominational leaders, and church staff. While working on the translation for the English Standard Version of the Bible, Grudem along with dozens of scholars worked round the clock to complete the final translation. Grudem said he started getting up a little later each day, incrementally encroaching on his time for prayer and communion with God. After being convicted for not giving prayer its due, Grudem wrote of the spiritual sickness that followed from not tending to his relationship with God.
This may seem odd considering Grudem was daily immersed in God’s word. But, daily reading, studying, and discussing the Bible was not enough to keep Grudem’s heart from drifting from God and for inward and outward symptoms to appear. Apparently, even the act of translating the Bible can leave us spiritually empty if we neglect the relational aspects of our walk with God.
And, as far as I know, Jesus didn’t take a copy of the Torah with him when he retreated to the mountains, seashore, the Garden of Gethsemane, or the Mount of Olives. It appears these times of silence and solitude were devoted to knowing and becoming one with the heart and mind of God.
One of the gifts of tribal religions of Native people is their openness to inspiration from a number of sources, such as community, ancestors, nature, dance, art, symbols, songs, and prayer. Because they are not tied to a sacred text, they are freer to discover, honor, and celebrate the sacred everywhere and in everything.
I have no doubt that pastors who have experienced moral failure, emotional burnout, or behavior contrary to the fruits of the spirit spent copious time in God’s word in preparation for multiple weekly preaching and teaching responsibilities. It is beyond debate that spending time in scripture is a foundational spiritual discipline, but clearly it wasn’t sufficient to keep these leaders from committing ministry suicide.
There’s More Than One Prescription for Spiritual Growth
Several years ago I began experiencing discomfort in my right hip after playing golf. Soon the hip began hurting all the time so I went to my family physician who prescribed anti-inflammatory pills. When my hip continued to hurt I visited a chiropractor who determined my spine was out of alignment and provided a series of adjustments. When the pain persisted I visited a physical therapist who prescribed 8 weeks of physical therapy and stretching exercises. Still not experiencing relief I visited my urologist for a routine exam. During the course of the exam my doctor said, “Jim, you have a rather significant abdominal hernia on your right side.” I asked if that could be the source of my hip pain, “absolutely he replied, the hernia is most likely pressing on a nerve that leads directly to your hip.” He immediately arranged for surgery to repair my hernia, which resolved my hip pain.
This experience taught me the limitations of using one approach to treat every malady. Each doctor had prescribed the one approach they knew and specialized in to address my pain. In time I saw an obvious analogy to the spiritual growth prescription that my generation grew up with……have a daily quiet time consisting of a few minutes of bible study and prayer, and then attend church every Sunday and Wednesday. Measures of spirituality were how many days you had a quiet time and how many times you attended church each week.
This one size fits all approach to spiritual growth was the universal prescription for a personal relationship with Jesus that would transform our lives. At best, this rote approach served to provide a spiritual foundation, but eventually became more of an obligation than a joy and proved inadequate to build a growing and transforming relationship with God. Regretfully, many never found an alternative.
It’s All About Relationship
Expecting each person to have the same type of quiet time and the same approach to relating to God, is a prescription for falling into a soul numbing rut. As we shared in the article, “What is Your Spiritual Temperament?” there are various ways people find intimacy with God and each of us have our preferred “pathways” for being drawn into God’s presence. Feeding your soul through ongoing spiritual activities in each of your preferred pathways is integral to a vibrant and growing relationship with God.
And make no mistake, we were made to be in relationship with God. In fact we were made to enjoy a relationship with God that is unique and that He has with no one else. But, when our approach to our relationship with God becomes singular, such as only studying the Bible, or mechanized by routinely following the same rote patterns, we risk spiritual emptiness, losing our delight in the Lord, and ultimately, illicit behavior that brings scandal on the church of Christ.
The casualties of one dimensional, formulaic, and mechanized spirituality are growing. God had a unique and very personal relationship with the saints of the Bible, and each made it their primary passion to grow and cultivate that relationship. God yearns for that same unique, passionate, growing, and intimate relationship with you. How will you respond to that invitation?
Posted on October 9, 2018