Monday, 19 November 2012
Prayer and commitment
There is something in us that likes to look for methods, formulae and guarantees in life. Perhaps that same inner desire is what is behind consulting palm-readers or fortune tellers. Perhaps it is the old Adam wanting the sort of knowledge that gives power or control, a desire to be like God? Either way it's a futile search doomed to failure. But it doesn't stop us.
Take the Christian life and ministry. As a Vicar I would love to find a way of guaranteeing church growth or a sure-fire sermon that will win people for Christ. In fact - for the right reasons you understand - I have over the years assiduously read dozens of books and articles which tell the stories of how this church grew from 10 to a 1000 people, or this revival that saw hundreds turn to Christ over a short span of time. I have delved into the personal lives of revivalists and famous evangelists, and I have dug deep into the scriptures for any information I can glean about what may be missing in what I am doing (or not doing) or what shortfalls there are in my prayer-life that need correcting. I have confessed every sin I can, digging deep into my past life to weed out any possible overlooked niggling misdemeanour. I have attended renewal conferences, listened to countless tapes by this or that speaker and sought the counsel of leaders I admire and respect. All to no avail. There is no magic formula or sure-fire method (or course) that can be discovered that will achieve success in ministry because that is not how it works. God is a person not a project, and the ministry is about service not success. The wind "blows where it wills" Jesus once said, and there is no way of telling it (Him) what to do or where to blow (See John 3).
So what do I do? I can throw my toys out of the pram and do something else? I can look for something that will produce visible and measurable results? I can engage in important building projects or find an absorbing hobby? Or I can just "serve God as He deserves, give (to Him) and not count the cost, fight and not to heed the wounds, toil and not to seek for rest, labour and not to ask for any reward" (St. Ignatius of Loyola). The human thing is to do one of the former. The Christian thing is to do the latter.
I read this morning the following alarming statistics: "Only six per cent of British adults read or listen to the Bible, while 55 per...