The Desert Fathers in the 3rd to the 5th century, following the tradition of Elijah, Moses, and John the Baptist, fled to the silence of the desert to purify their hearts in order to see God. Ultimately, they sought to save the world, and the church, from idolatry. Their wisdom has endured almost 2000 years. The next time you are criticized or slandered, remember these words from Abba John: “One day when he was sitting in front of the church, the brethren were consulting him about their thoughts. One of the old men who saw it became a prey to jealousy and said to him, ‘John, your vessel is full of poison.’ Abba John said to him, ‘That is very true, abba; and you have said that when you see only the outside, but if you were able to see the inside, too, what would you say then?’ How very true.
We recently hosted a Trappist monk at New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, NYC named Father Williams . What made him such a gift to us was not his eloquence, his well-crafted sermons, his cleverness, or capacity as a leader. His prayer life, his walk with Jesus, his interior life with God built over many years pulled us toward Jesus in a very different way. It was transformative to be around him. He spoke as one “with authority,” (even though he uses an I-Pad!) The following are a few of my personal summary insights out of our time together that I have been reflecting on: There is no greater gift in the universe than to have a desire for the Triune God. Loving God for His own sake is God’s heart for us. God takes us where we are, not where we are not. Contemplation is awe and wonder in the face of God.. Read more.
The following is a six minute interview with Father Meninger, a Trappist monk for the past 52 years. We have just finished 4 very enjoyable days with him at New Life. Perhaps the greatest challenge for us as leaders is to drink from an interior life with God sufficient to sustain our activity/work for Him. Lessons from the Trappists, one of the most contemplative monastic orders, enable us to step back and examine our leadership from a fresh perspective. Enjoy this brief interview or, for more in-depth insights, click here for a full 40 minute sermon in which I interview Father William.
I am finding that I need to speak more frequently about why a proper understanding of our church family history is paramount for growing spiritually. (click to see a larger version) I emphasize three critically important, major truths: 1. There was only one church for the first 1054 years. The first major split happened between the Eastern and Western church then. This was followed by the split of the Roman Catholic church in 1517 when Protestantism was born. Since then we have had over 200,000 other splits with countless Protestant and independent churches. So my particular tribe (evangelical) is finds itself far up into the upper right of the above chart. This is not a bad thing but I/we come from a family genogram. We are not the whole church by any means. And the church did not start with Luther, Calvin and the Reformers. 2. We need to learn from other traditions of. Read more.
In preparation for our Emotionally Healthy Leadership Conference I spent a lot of time reading of about the impact of social media/technology on our formation in Christ along with the importance of learning from other spiritual traditions outside of contemporary evangelicalism to root us deeply in Christ. What are the lessons I learned? 1. We need to learn from Roman Catholics, Orthodox churches and church history. Remember, Luther was anti-Semite. Calvin drowned an Anabaptist for believing in baptism by immersion. Jonathan Edwards had slaves. Azusa Street, in 1906, split on racism. While my church historian friend, Dr. Scott Sunquist, reminds me that the roots of evangelicalism in the 18th and 19th century was marked by a generous spirit towards other traditions, that is not the case today. We are often deeply judgmental and narrow. Our church family genogram since Pentecost has many riches and warts. By studying this history, we can see better what. Read more.
I was asked recently the following question: “What, besides the Bible, have been the top 10 books that have influenced your formation in Christ and leadership?” The following is my answer. They are not in order of importance or rank. 1. Let Your Life Speak. Parker Palmer. Filled with powerful insights integrating faithfulness to God to faithfulness to your true self. 2. New Seeds of Contemplation. Thomas Merton. Written out of years of solitude and silence. Many of his short chapters need to be prayed in a lectio divina fashion, not simply read. 3. Under the Unpredictable Plant. Eugene Peterson. Brilliant exegesis and application of Jonah to pastoral leadership and the reality of serving Christ with sinners in Nineveh rather than live in the “ecclesiastical pornography” of illusions. 4. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe. Written in the 1850’s, it remains one of the most powerful accounts to understand racism and slavery in America. Transformed my. Read more.