Practice: Alone Together
1 Kings 19:11-13
We need to practice personal disciplines, but we need to learn how to do them in the midst of a community so that these practices can be done together rather than alone.
Barriers to the experience of alone together:
#1 we are never alone- togetherness and aloneness work together as we seek God through both.
#2 Always alone- When we think of prayer or having a quiet time or personal devotions, it is related to our individual private relationship with God. It is as though the church is not really necessary because my private beliefs and relationship with God is all that matter.
It is a dangerous thing to elevate oneself to a position of always alone before God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes, “Whoever cannot stand being in community should beware of being alone.”
“Only as we stand within community can we be alone, and only those who are alone can live in the community. Both belong together. Only in community do we learn to live properly in community.”- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Alone together concept in the book The Mystery of Marriage
Any of the following spiritual disciplines can be done together:
Choose a good devotional book and read it together
Practice Lectio divina around a common Scripture. For instance, imagine you are studying Romans 12:1-2. The group could commit to reading these verses every day and ask four questions as they reflect on it:
- Read the passage. What stands out to you?
- Reflect on the point that stands out to you. What comes to mind as you reflect on this passage?
- Pray what you see in this passage. Turn any insight you have into a prayer.
- Wait on God. What do you sense God speaking to you?
- Use a book live Divine Hours or the Book of Common Prayer as a personal prayer guide.
- Fast together on the same day or over the same few days.
- Simply commit to pray for others in the group and listen to God for one another.
Practice: listening together
If we are to live relationally with God and others, we need to hear God his way, and this is best done together.
The examples of listening the wrong way are endless. And sadly, this listening alone and the resulting weirdness make the rhythm of listening to God unattractive. We hear God best as individuals in the context of humbly submitting what we sense to others in community. For such listening to occur three things have to happen:
- Focus on Jesus- at the core of anything that God speaks or has spoken is Jesus. Jesus is the communication of God. Hebrews 1:1-3
If we want to know what God is like, we need to see what Jesus is like. If we want to hear what God is saying to us today, we need to begin with an encounter with Jesus.
Essential to listening to Jesus today is the principle of two or three. (Matthew 18:20). Coming together in the name of Jesus means that the group gathering with a focus on Jesus and who he is.
- Live the Scriptures- God speaks to His church through the Bible. Small groups can become a kind of mini theology huddle. Listening together to the Scriptures occurs when we hear the grand story of the Bible and begin to participate in it.
Listening together to Scriptures- not an act of abstraction
Practice: Keeping the Sabbath
Exodus 20:8- Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.
Those who know how to rest in God one day per week also know how to enter his rest the other six days. This one day prepares them for resting in God while they work.
Leisure rest differs from Sabbath rest. In leisure rest we escape from the world into mindless numbness. In the Sabbath rest we set aside a day for two reasons. First, it is a day of not working or not producing goods or services for the sake of personal gain or sustenance. We have six days for production; this one is about trusting God for our sustenance. Second, it is a day for asking to see what God is up to in my life, the life of my community and in my neighborhood. On this day we look at what God is doing in our world and take in God’s creation by reflecting on the previous week and offering the next week to God.
If Sabbath keeping is simply something that individuals choose to do and we fail to see how it can be practiced together in our groups, we will simply fail to do it in our manic world today.
The Rhythm of Missional Relating as a Group
The way we relate to one another is as important to our missional way of being in the world as anything else.
Being missional is inherently relational, and relationships are messy and take time. But sometimes the simple actions of actively loving one another can have an impact on the world around us in mysterious ways we cannot explain.