Earlier this year I had a friend who was going through a challenging situation at his church. He was the pastor of a church he loved in Texas, and they loved him. They were doing good ministry together, but the national conversation along with insidious actors caused his local church to fracture this fall. People began to demand votes, for lawsuits, for hours-long meetings where people hurled barrages of insults at one another. So, my friend, their pastor, did something impressive, he took a month off. In that month, he read through the entire Bible, start to finish.
I was listening to the great teacher Brian McLaren recently who was talking about the scripture where Jesus goes off by himself to pray. One of the reasons he did this, McLaren says, is so he can get away from our tribal tendencies. It is life-giving to be a part of a community, but it does limit us from seeing things from a holistic perspective if we ONLY stay in our tribes. When I was listening to McLaren speak, I began to realize that most of us rarely take time away from our communities to pray. Social Media, Regular Media, and Fringe Media all exacerbate this. We never really have time alone outside of the flow of our communities which are typically made up of people who agree with us.
This is what my friend did. He stepped away and spent time in prayer and with Scripture, to hear what God was saying; to him, to his church, to this moment. I will report that things continued to not go well as he tried to heal a fractured church and there were too many angry people who kept wanting it to stay broken. But he is okay and will be okay. He pastored them the best that he could, and I’m extremely impressed by him and his work. Something to remember for all of us, we need time away, outside of whatever flow in which we find ourselves, to make sure it is taking us in the direction God is calling us to go.