So this guy pictured to the left is Chuck Bomar. He spoke at the Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church back in June. I, unfortunately, had to follow his talk on Twitter because I attended a memorial service. Then, a month or so later he posts this: http://chuckbomar.blogspot.com/2012/07/on-mission-but-missing-point.html. And it was a reminder what my first task is--to abide in Christ. As I am starting ministry in this new context, I feel behind and sometimes overwhelmed. There's so much to do! And the church-work often distracts from the mission field. I recently missed a couple months of blogging in what seemed like the blink of an eye. Fortunately, blogging and church-work don't need to be my first priority. As Churck says, it's "abiding in Christ...If I'm abiding in Christ and intimately remaining connected to him, then I'll be on mission." This blog is my attempt at claiming an identity as a Missionary, rather than Pastor. I cannot forget, though, that my first priority must always be maintaining intimacy with God. You can't be missional without Christ. He is the original Missionary, and I'm joining him.
I've been away from blogging for a while now due to a full schedule. Some of you may know that I'm training to run a marathon (which you can sponsor here: www.40forfestival.com). As I've written before, running can be compared to Holy Communion--and I feel like I've been keeping constant communion. I run 4-5 days a week, and my mileage is up to 35 miles a week, and not a day goes by that I can't feel the effects of running. I'm looking forward to tapering that back soon, but until the race is over on Oct. 20th I'm prioritizing running in my schedule.
This has been good for me mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It's especially helped me realize that I can be disciplined and work towards achieving goals. There are times that I want to quit, or not get up early and run, but I keep going. I often ask myself "why am I doing this to myself?" I always figure out an answer to keep myself motivated, or I just decide to go run no matter what and force myself to run. Those runs are hard to start, but fun to finish. I especially like the feeling I get from my long runs because I accomplish something I didn't think was possible, and often it's before breakfast!
I hope to gain momentum from the discipline of running and develop discipline in other areas like prayer, bible study, blogging, and music. The point of developing spiritual disciplines: constant communion with God. Like Jesus' words in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can't do anything." I want my life to bear good fruit that comes from God. I want God to work through me. I can't expect that without abiding in Him and keeping constant communion.
Keeping the bigger goal of the marathon in mind, motivates my running. I have to run. Maybe as a Christian, I can keep a bigger goal in mind to motivate my spiritual disciplines so that I have to keep constant communion. What would that goal be? Paul talks of a heavenly prize. Jesus mentions storing up treasures in heaven. I like the John 15 passage talking about bearing fruit. The goal is seeing more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control in the lives of people around me: my family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, church-attenders, enemies, etc. So that more people know and attain the heavenly prize.
It's hard to put that goal into words and make it tangible--maybe that's why spiritual disciplines can be difficult, but constant communion is worth it.
I am a United Methodist Pastor, but I'm trying to re-define that as a Missionary sent to my corner of the USA. What would it look like for you to envision your life as a Christian more like a Missionary than a Church-goer?