On Thursday 29 January, Anita and I returned from two and a half weeks in Western Australia, enjoying times of relaxation, refreshment and marvelling at God’s creation. Since then, this last week has been a flurry of activity; prayer breakfasts each morning, the prayer and worship night on Wednesday, the leaders’ retreat on Saturday, and a full set of services on Sunday!
Despite this potentially exhausting schedule, starting the ministry year in prayer and reflective planning has been invigorating, and set a refreshing tone for 2015. Since my natural tendency in my Christian walk is to seek outward service of God in action, this week of prayer has again reminded me of both my constant need and the benefit of seeking God through prayer and reflection.
Throughout 2014, this need for a combination of both inner nurture of faith and outward expression of faith became particularly clear. While some people felt spiritually drained through constant service activity, others felt disturbingly comfortable and restless for ways to live out what God was growing in them. Some people even experienced the feeling of swinging on a pendulum; in one season under-emphasising outward expression of faith, and in another season feeling drained by over-expenditure of energy in outward action, at the expense of personal development of faith.
On Saturday at our leaders’ retreat, we spent the morning in prayer, singing and solitude, and ended the day sharing communion. The middle chunks of the day were spent in planning, visioning and robust discussion. Despite the long day, this helpful combination of seeking God inwardly balanced with active planning and discussion ensured we were neither too drained nor inactive in our time together.
Jesus provides us with a similar pattern in training and preparing his disciples. In Mark 6, Jesus sends the disciples on mission, to preach repentance and perform miracles (Mark 6:7-13). On their return, Jesus then takes the disciples on a retreat (Mark 6:30-32), to enjoy rest in a solitary place with him. Jesus’ passion for mission and active faith is matched by his desire for us to have quiet time with him, growing in personal faith.
In 2015 at NightChurch, we will seek to follow this healthy model of balancing inward and outward elements of faith, particularly through our small group ministry. In March, we will be launching a “missional” vision for our groups, that they might both continue to encourage inward faith, and provide genuine, practical opportunities to serve. Please pray that, both as a church and personally, we might seek to know God more and grow in faith, and serve God as we are able, in practical action in the world.