I want to revisit my spiritual ‘combustion triangle’.
When I first introduced it, I suggested that the way to apply heat to whatever fires of ministry and social engagement the Holy Spirit starts was preaching. I’d like to modify that. Particularly because I realise I’d slid into (mere) activism — and let prayer drop off the radar!
But rather than ‘not … but’ I want to say ‘both … and’ — both preaching and praying. Listen to how Tim Chester and Steve Timmis try to set the cultural temperature of their church such that congregation members naturally bring ‘gospel intentionality’ to bear in their everyday lives (Total Church, p 62):
We try to create this culture by regularly teaching our values, celebrating gospel opportunities, setting aside time each Sunday to share what we have been doing, ‘commissioning’ people as missionaries in their workplaces and social clubs. Above all we model the culture for one another so it becomes the normal thing to do.
Can you imagine the difference it would make in your church if along with teaching people about the priority of speaking the gospel you prayed for each other the way you’d pray for your overseas missionaries?
From the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. What’s said in public — and especially what’s prayed — either reflects the cultural temperature of your church or sets it. If you don’t think about it much, then like a thermometer you’ll just reflect the ambient temperature — inevitably cooling in terms of enthusiasm for gospel proclamation and the good works that adorn it. But if you’re more deliberate, constantly dialing in your heart to God’s own heart and priorities, then like a thermostat you can start setting the temperature.
Now, there’s got to be more to this than just hot air. Few things are more damaging than leaders saying they value something and then contradicting it in practice (that’s for another post). But Christian leaders are either cultural thermometers or thermostats. It’s a choice we all face…