I am one of the fortunate ones. Having been sent out by North Wake Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina I was able to sit under the ministry of Pastor Larry Trotter, otherwise known as the “Baptist monk.” Larry is one of the few that carefully pays attention to Jesus’ example of prayer and solitude for the sake of the mission.
He once told us of the need to regularly pull away for prayer and solitude retreats for if we don’t, we’d get “wobbly.” I can't tell you how many times I have been snappy, grumpy, or just spiritually or emotionally tired wherein I evaluated why and recalled this counsel. You can only imagine how this might negatively affect my attempts at witnessing to others the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The fifth dimension that The Treasuring Christ Together Network emphasizes is this need to witness. We define it this way:
Personal and corporate strategies of wartime living, courageous witness, and social action to show the supreme value of Christ to fallen people and fallen culture.
You can practically feel the energy of this sentence. “Wartime living,” “courageous witness,” and “social action” are daunting tasks, to say the least. To live this way in order to testify to our neighbors and the nations the greatest news of all requires much of us, therefore it likewise demands our souls be quieted. We cannot properly extend ourselves if we are persistently exhausted.
In Matthew 14:23 we read that “after [Jesus] had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” In Mark 1:35-39 we read of a similar incident of Jesus pulling away early in the morning and then coming out to preach to the crowds.
Evidently, our Lord saw the need of having His soul stilled before His heavenly Father as He prepared to go to the crowds and when He left the crowds. Surely, this pulling away to pray was petitionary, but also quieting to the noise of preaching. It likely reminded Him why He was there in addition to strengthening His resolve to continue on in the difficult task of preaching the Gospel.
Note also, these instances weren’t momentary. In Matthew 14:23 Jesus was there so long that night came on. In Mark 1:35-39 He had been there early in the morning while it was still dark. This reveals to us the need to not only pull away to be quieted, but also that quieting takes time. Our souls don’t have brakes like our cars that we can merely step on and stop. They are more like flywheels that need both the removal of motion and time for the wheel to slow down. If we are going to be effective as a network in witnessing we must do as our Lord did and quiet our souls so that we will not be “wobbly” and ineffective for the call to wartime living.
Not only is this important for pastors, this is also important for pastor’s wives. They are constantly on the go helping and engaging wartime witnessing themselves. From late night feedings to early morning discipleship meetings all the way to exhausting conversations with their husbands who like to sometimes verbally process the difficulties of their jobs. Pastor’s wives must also have their souls quieted in order to effectively witness to others for Christ.
Let's consider a few ways we can quiet our souls for the purposes of witnessing both personally and corporately:
1. Personal Private Prayer: The life of Christ and Acts 6:4 would indicate to us that one of the most important things we do as leaders in the church is to pray. Simply put, if you are not praying, you are not communing with God. And if you are not communing with God what might this indicate about your witnessing?
Try and find a quiet spot at a time where you know you will not be disturbed and consistently give yourself to prayer. That may be an actual closet or it may be getting to your office early or waking up early before the kids get up. Use the Psalms or other prayers from Scripture in addition to resources like Valley of Vision or Prone to Wander by Barbara Duguid and Wayne Duguid Houk to assist you when it's hard to begin.
2. Meditation: I've found that by adding the step of Scripture meditation in between my Bible reading and prayer time has assisted in quieting my soul for witnessing. It tends to warm my soul and quiet me down and lead me into prayer more naturally. That singular thought or verse I meditate on tends to find its way into conversations and prayers as I go about my day.
3. Personal/Corporate retreats: Whether it be a half day or a full day, pulling away from your regular context as an individual or with others once every 4-6 weeks is ideal in quieting our souls in order to be an effective witness. Find nearby parks, go on a hike, or sit in an art museum. Provide enough time to let that flywheel slow down. Most often the hardest part of slowing down is that first hour. Therefore, extended time is needed to get the most out of the exercise.
4. Corporate prayer: Whether it be the prayer gathering before church each week or in members meetings, I have found listening to the prayers of my covenanted brothers or sisters pray for others often stirs my soul and fills me up. They do the praying for me as I listen and drink in their petitions to God for others.
5. Turn off the screens: We have a beautiful view off of our porch that overlooks NW D.C. that my wife and I sit on each night in the warmer months. We put down our phones, turn off the TV, and light a couple candles, and sometimes play beautiful music softly after the kids go down to sleep and we just talk. I enjoy watching the trees sway back and forth against the breeze and I often stare at the moon or the few stars we can see in the city. There is something about those quiet moments wherein I look to creation and am reminded of my smallness as I speak with my wife whom I love that naturally stills me and gives me strength for the next day.
Whatever it is, brothers and sisters, quiet your soul so that you do not become “wobbly” and tire in the task of witnessing. As a network, we emphasize these things so that we might be in our communities courageously witnessing for the long haul.