Friday, 3 April 2009

hit the ground kneeling (3)

Letting the grass grow under your feet. Actually I’m pretty good at this as my wife will testify. Around this time of year the patch of grass I dare to call a lawn is in need of a cut and I find all sorts of excuses to avoid the trip to the garage to dust down the mower. It’s a sit down job and should be a pleasure but the battery needs charging, the tyres pumped up yada, yada, yada…

Letting the grass grow under your feet is the third chapter of +Stephen Cottrell’s book, Hit The Ground Kneeling, in which he calls for the Christian leader to create space and time for prayer and what he calls 'reconnecting with the vision'. This is done in daily prayer and in a regular pattern of days set aside for the purpose. It doesn’t need saying that this should be a priority, a discipline and commitment, but it does need saying because I find it so hard to do. This is not about doing nothing, although the phrase may give that impression; it demands an effort of will to be still and to rest in God’s presence and it reaps dividends.

'The wonderful thing about this sort of prayer is that it is gloriously affirming; I rest in the presence of God and know myself to be a precious part of God’s creation, but not its centre.'

For +Stephen a monthly away day can be a way of getting back in touch with first love. Reflecting on John’s words to the church in Ephesus Revelation 2:2-5 he comments:

'Whenever I read these words I feel as if they are addressed to me. For I know that I do work hard. I know that I endure and sometimes I even do it patiently! But the real complaint is this: “You have abandoned the love you had at first.” It is returning to this love that will be the seedbed for renewal and change in the future. And all I need to do is find time to remember.'

The secret I’m discovering, or I should say recovering, at the heart of this little book is not inaction, but discerning and prioritising the right sort of action. In order to exercise any kind of fruitful, transforming and enabling leadership, the first foundation stone we lay must be space and time.

2 comments:

paul said...

I have been enjoying your posts, Philip, and would like to read +Stephen's book for myself.

The thing I wonder about this stuff, though, is about the potential for this to just be a little selfish. How could I possibly justify such 'space' within a household that is busy and demanding? It would be a bit of an offense to my wife and kids and others, wouldn't it? A bit of an indulgence?

I don't feel that "It helps me to be a better/ more reflective leader" is any kind of answer to "Why are you bunking off the washing/cleaning/doing the chores, and expecting me to do them?"

This is not to say that it is not all true enough in its own way, just making rather a lot of easy, perhaps middle class and moneyed, assumptions - and possible disdain for others close to you...

How do you feel?

Philip Ritchie said...

Paul, I think your point is well made. I remember hearing Steve Chalke speak about how he used to go off for his early morning prayer time and return to find his wife stressed out and the kids running riot!

However, I don't think +Stephen is arguing that we bunk off from family responsibilities; the point he is making is that these things should be a priority in our ministry and therefore we should make time for them within our working day. If a leader is hitting the ground running then chances are they haven't taken time for prayerful listening and are likely to run in the wrong direction. If we can't find time for prayer and connecting with the vision then the chances are we will end up a couple of years down the road 'burnt out with exhaustion, stretched out by other people's agendas, or wrung out because of a lack of vision or direction.'

These are not the assumptions of the middle class and moneyed. +Stephen is writing about those called to exercise leadership in the church and identifying things that should be priorities in exercising that leadership. I don't think this is selfish; if we are called to lead and minister to others we need to get the important things in place for their sake. They deserve to be led by people who make prayerful reflection a priority.

There are plenty of burnt out and disillusioned colleagues to suggest that +Stephen has identified something important here.

My point in posting about all this is that I understand the principles, putting it into practice is the challenge.