Early in my ministry, at the outset of one of the largest national youth worker gatherings, I sat eager for and overwhelmed by the schedule and resources ahead. Amidst the glaring colors and lights and blaring sounds, founder Mike Yaconelli stood on a high-impact stage before thousands of adrenaline-charged, program-savvy attendees and suggested that maybe what we needed most was stay in our hotel rooms with our spouses and order room service.
That drew a cheer (perhaps from dragged-along partners, lured by the misleading promise of “doing something together”). But I have to admit, my first thought was, “really? and let all your work and the funding that got me here go to waste?”
But Yac knew that what many of these full-time ministers really needed was to check in to the event and check out of the sense that they were in control, or needed to be. In part, because the churches that sent them there desperately needed for their church staff to return as trusting sheep rather than empowered directors. There is often little motivation to justify that needed “sabbath” budget line, for our church staff or for the church herself.
Yesterday I suggested how I imagine Bible Lectures as part of a process of discernment for folks who hope it will strengthen their churches. Today, I’d like to suggest how #PBL12 might contribute to any and all in a more foundational way, which is no less a part of becoming Good News for those who need it. I’m convinced of the promise that the one who acquires the Spirit of peace stands in a better position to be part of God’s active, saving work.
A “pilgrimage” can be a journey taken in which the destination is not a new location, but a different experience of our life. We arrive when we return home and find God at work right where we were – where we already are, but are not fully present to God-with-us. PBL is an opportunity to take that trip home.
I have, in the past, gone to conferences and equipping events with the question, “what can I learn to do better, and how can I convince others to do it my way?” I am trying to approach these (and all of life) differently now. I wonder how my schedule would look if my approach is, “your will, not mine, today.”
We are learning a lot about the need for rhythms of rest and renewal in our lives. If I follow Christ into those times away to be with the Father, I find him not ambitiously strategizing and refueling, but again setting aside his human will for God’s, and asking God’s will for himself and those he serves. It is not a rhythm of strengthening my control, but of deepening my surrender. It is this rhythm that empowers a life for others, and this is the standard for “effective leadership” or “personal success” in the economy of God’s kingdom.
I’m grateful for several classes this year that call me to see differently, and invite me to new practices that might help me deepen this kind of life. I am also grateful that, just as the “church is not the building,” an event like PBL is not the program; it’s the people. The structure, which so much good work and prayer has established, comes to life and purpose as the Spirit brings life to the body gathered, and we discern the Kingdom at work among and within us.
So, we’re invited to the feast. Just like every gathering of believers, it will happen because we bring what God gifts us to offer, and receive what God gifts others to build into this body. I believe if I arrive ready to deepen my surrender to God, this time of pilgrimage can help me return home to continue a journey that allows God’s Spirit to direct my life for the sake of those around me. If I set aside my enthusiasm or self-focused motivation, and ask to be shaped through this experience into the image of Christ, what will I do for the next four days? What will I do for the next 365?
What will God do?
Join us in praying for the thousands who come to the table our PBL staff have so graciously set, for those prepared to serve, and for all who might see more clearly how to love God and love others as a result of setting aside this time together.