Saturday, June 13, 2009

Tim Keller Manual - spiritual flab

On the very first page of the Introduction to his church planting manual, Keller talks about meeting with a potential church planter and being embarrassed. He says, ‘I immediately recognised that my prayer and spiritual life would now be incapable of handling such a project. I realised I had gotten “flabby”. I repented and began renewing spiritually.’

I found it instructive that Keller’s ‘spiritual flabbiness’ occurred while he was pastoring a church, advising church planters and teaching theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. One can only assume that he was spending lots of time reading the Bible and teaching it to congregations and students. One can only assume that he was spending lots of time in activities that involved public prayer.

What was missing? You get a sense of it later in the manual:

  • Applying God’s Word into other people’s lives without investing significant, reflective time applying it into your own
  • Hungering and thirsting after measurable ministry outcomes, or the silver bullet program, or the perfect ministry model, or whatever else is going to impress the troops or the peers, rather than hungering and thirsting after righteousness before anything else
  • Going through the motion of prayer without the painfully honest, extensive, passionate speaking to God that is appropriate because of who God actually is and who we are before him

For me personally, these are things that require me to invest chunks of quiet, focused, reflective time. These can feel self-indulgent because they are not a luxury available to many in our congregations who work full time as plumbers or accountants. But if I want to be able to serve Christ by functioning as a role model for his sheep, these things are necessary – at least they are for me.

Keller’s honesty has encouraged me to do some ‘preventative maintenance’. One step is to go through the diary and on the weeks where I am not preaching try to devote a whole day to Bible reading, reflection and prayer that is primarily about God and me; letting God’s word work me over in a more intense and reflective way, ‘praying until I pray’.

Are there other, better ways to avoid that spiritual flabbiness?

1 comment:

  1. Hi there Craig,

    Just jumping into your Keller musings. This means I don't have to another book. Me happy