32.1 The Contemplative Activist: Moving From the 3-B’s to the 3-C’s.


The “Fourth Week”: Week Thirty-Two/Session One.

Theme: Looking Ahead With Hope.

Our reading for today: Luke 6: 12-19.

At about that same time Jesus climbed a mountain to pray. He was there all night in prayer before God. The next day He summoned His disciples; from them He selected twelve He designated as apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, Andrew, his brother, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, son of Alphaeus, Simon, called the Zealot, Judas, son of James, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. Coming down off the mountain with them, He stood on a plain surrounded by disciples, and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem, even from the seaside towns of Tyre and Sidon. They had come both to hear Him and to be cured of their ailments. Those disturbed by evil spirits were healed. Everyone was trying to touch Him—so much energy surging from Him, so many people healed! (Luke 6: 12-19 MsgB)

So now we finally reach our last week of studies in our eight-month long Ignatian Prayer Adventure. Last week, we were encouraged to look back over the steps we’ve taken, gathering up all the graces God has bestowed upon us as we’ve journeyed along the way. This week, we’re encouraged now to look forward, knowing full well that Ignatius did not expect his Spiritual Exercises to be an end in themselves but to simply serve as a tool for our journey with Jesus still ahead.

If you recall my story I shared with you back at the beginning of our blog series, I have come, in recent years, to realize that for the great majority of my 30-plus years in pastoral ministry, I was truly what I call…a 3-B Pastor. Sadly, like most church leaders in our westernized culture, I defined much of my ‘success’ (or failure) in ministry by measuring the size of the (B)uilding our church worshiped in, the quantity of (B)ucks we took in our weekly offerings, and the number of (B)utts we could get into our sanctuary for Sunday morning services! Today, my wife and I have joined the ranks of other men and women who are now defining themselves as “recovering” 3-B pastors and leaders, on our way to becoming Christ-centered contemplative activists.

As I see it, a Christ-centered contemplative activist is one who has decided to forsake a westernized corporate view of Christianity where the 3-B’s (Buildings, Bucks, & Butts in the seats) govern our success in ministry, and now embraces instead, the singular desire to live a fruitful, Christ-honoring life; a simple & sustainable faith that is rooted in the three major disciplines found in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Around our church in Cedar Rapids, we like to call these three disciplines, the 3-C’s.

Communion (with God)

Community (with others)

Commission (into our world)

Author Henri Nouwen (in a little book called A Spirituality of Living) does an excellent job in describing this 3-C lifestyle of Jesus, where the Master models three specific life disciplines throughout His three years of ministry. Allow me to quote Nouwen as he comments on our text today from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 6: 12-19)…

This is a beautiful story that moves from night to morning to afternoon. Jesus spent the night in solitude with God. In the morning, He gathered His apostles around Him and formed community. In the afternoon, with His apostles, He went out and preached the Word and healed the sick. Notice the order–from solitude to community to ministry. The night is for solitude; the morning for community; the afternoon for ministry.

So often in ministry, I have wanted to do it by myself. If it didn’t work, I went to others and said, “Please!” searching for a community to help me. If that didn’t work, maybe I’d start praying. But the order that Jesus teaches us is the reverse. It begins by being with God in solitude (Communion); then it creates a fellowship, a community of people with whom the mission is being lived (Community); and finally this community goes out together to heal and to proclaim good news (Commission).

I believe you can look at solitude, community, and ministry as three disciplines by which we create space for God. If we create space in which God can act and speak, something surprising will happen. You and I are called to these disciplines if we want to be disciples.

Thanks Henri! I needed to hear that!

This week, in our final blog sessions, please allow me to unpack for you these three life-disciplines (Communion, Community and Commission) of a contemplative activist. If you’re like me, it will help immensely in keeping the embers of God’s fiery presence we’ve felt throughout our Ignatian Adventure burning into the future.

The day will come when, after harnessing the space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire. Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, SJ

My prayer: Father, with the help of others like Ignatius, Henri Nouwen, and other godly men and women who’ve gone before us, I choose to embrace the simple and sustainable faith that many are defining as Christ-centered contemplative activistism. I thank You for all You’ve done in my life through these Spiritual Exercises and look for the holy fire of God that came from them to burn brightly in my life in the days ahead. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Kevin O’Brien, in his guidebook The Ignatian Adventure, suggests these questions for us to ponder throughout this final week of study:

  • How have I grown in gratitude for the gifts God has given me?
  • How has my understanding of call or vocation evolved over the weeks?
  • Have I made a significant decision during the retreat, or do I need God’s help in making such a decision in the future?
  • How would I like to structure my prayer life in the future?
  • What commitments do I want to renew or make to my family, friends, church, or community? How can I better care for myself?
  • How has my sensitivity to the poor and marginalized deepened over the retreat? In what concrete ways can I serve those in need?
  • Have I grown in faith, hope, and love, in where does such life-giving growth lead me now?

So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure.

Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!

To go onto the next journal entry…click here.

2 thoughts on “32.1 The Contemplative Activist: Moving From the 3-B’s to the 3-C’s.

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