The year ahead of us is going to be filled with increasing – not decreasing – cultural challenge, political intensity, religiosity, technological shocks-to-the-system, and profound and desperate human need. How are you as a Christian, and how are we as a church community, going to walk forward in faith, empowered by God’s Spirit to be the body of Christ in the world?
How are we going to stay On Mission?
Ore et labora (pray and work) comes from St Benedict and is the traditional slogan of the Benedictines. Benedict saw the value of a spiritual life that was fully formed by both work and prayer… by mission and contemplation… by activity and respite.
The end of Matthew 28 gives us a solid Biblical foundation for this:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…"
Notice this: Jesus came near to his friends, and then Jesus sent his friends far off.
This is the work of the church, and of you and me. To be formed both by the nearness of Christ, which we find in reflection, prayer, worship, contemplation, rest, reprieve, meditation, and retreat….. AND by the farness of his missional call, which we often find in work, ministry involvement, leadership, discipleship, evangelism, and mission.
The temptation of our flesh is to do one without the other, or do them in separate seasons, flipping back and forth from one extreme to the other. In this case, work turns into workism which turns into burnout. And then instead of prayer, we bounce into patterns of exhaustion and disengagement. Have you seen this play out in your life? In this case, people live in 5th gear until the engine begins to smoke, then they downshift into 1st and can barely idle. This isn’t how we’re called to live as Christians, and it’s not how God made our bodies to function! God made us with limitations and with the capacity to envision remarkable things. God made us with a need for sleep, as well as with a capacity for running marathons. God made us creaturely, so we are both dependent on him as our creator, and so that we have a capacity for creativity and energized mission… because we’re made in His image.
The gift of the spirit is to see both work and prayer as opposite sides of the same coin. The two are not meant to be separated… rather our work propels us into prayer, and our prayers compel us toward our missional work.
Consider Mother Teresa, who even through times of deep and dark personal doubt, prayed each day for the grace to do the mission she knew she was called to, regardless of her troubled emotional and spiritual wrestling.
Consider some of our own Vineyard Columbus family, serving as missionaries in a country where it’s illegal to convert to Christianity, who prayed through the terror of imprisonment because of their faith, and who prayed through steps of healing, and who now are praying towards returning to that same place.
Consider the small group leader, who takes time for rest and prayer each week, and who also opens their home for Christian community and discipleship each week.
Consider the pastor, caring for kids as they head back to school, taking a brief prayer retreat, doing laundry, planning ministry, praying and working week in, and week out.
These are, as Christ tells us through Matthew 11, His unforced rhythms of grace. Ora et labora.
Without prayer, our work may be good, but we know that in times like these we need more than good work. We need God-empowered work.
At the same time, without work, our prayers may be lovely, but we know that in times like these we need more than lovely prayers. We need prayers that lead us into partnering with Christ to heal the world.
Let’s go back to the question I posed at the beginning:
How are you as a Christians, and how are we as a church community, going to walk forward in faith, empowered by God’s Spirit to be the body of Christ in the world?
This is a very practical and personal question. Here are some ways for you to examine it further: look at your actual schedule, or your calendar. Do you see places set aside for prayer, personal encouragement, life-giving community and spiritual contemplation? Do you see places set aside for the work of ministry, where you are on mission… leading, discipling, or serving?
Do you see a balance between the two? Does one dominate? Or are both missing?
Our first step is always to begin in conversation with Jesus about these things. When we begin thinking about these things independently, we are very good at either excusing our inactivity, or shaming ourselves for not doing enough.
God does not speak to us this way. God is a good Father, a good shepherd, and the Bible tells us that the good shepherd loves his sheep. He knows you, and he wants you to be fully formed into the person He made you to be. He knows when you sleep and when you awake. He knows when you have too many bills, when you are struggling with your mental health, and when you are in a selfish mode of being. He knows when you need to rest, and when you need to engage. He knows when you are serving out of your own codependency or superhero complex, and when you are resting out of your own fear or burnout. And he says: come to me.
How will we walk forward in faith this year? Accompanied by Christ, empowered by the Spirit, and sent by the Father… in both work, and prayer.
If you would like to learn about ways you can get On Mission through work and prayer at Vineyard Columbus, you can find our service opportunities here. If you would like to learn more about deepening your personal practice of prayer and contemplation click here or stop by our online bookstore and look through the devotional section on prayer.