Elijah understood that silence and listening are the starting points for true, authentic spiritual leadership. Without it we lead from our own mind and ideas. But the only way to listen is to deeply engage the radical spiritual disciplines of silence and solitude – the most challenging and least experienced disciplines in the church today.
Elijah lived in the desert for years – dependent on God alone for food and sustenance without projects or programs. The silence and solitude positioned him to listen and be formed into the leader God desired. The longer he remained in the silence of the desert, the more free he became to follow God’s direction.
Studies say that the average group can only bear silence for 15 seconds. Most of our personal lives and church services confirm this.
Yet it is essential that silence and solitude become a regular and normal part of our days and weeks. How else will our people learn these essential spiritual practices if we don’t? How else will they mature? How else will they discern the leading of the Spirit in their lives? Can listening be done when no time is set-aside for God in silence? Can the idols that rob us of life in God be seen and dismantled any other way?
When we look at the life of Elijah, the answer is no. (Moses, John the Baptist, Paul, Jesus, and Mary also confirm this).
We don’t learn silence and solitude easily or quickly. That is like expecting to compete in the Olympics without ever training. Yet I am increasingly convinced that integrating these countercultural practices into how we make disciples is one of the great gifts emotionally healthy spirituality offers the church. How to do this well has been the subject of much of my research over the past year.