Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Pastor Marty Boller. And after 30-plus years in pastoral ministry, I’ve come to the realization that for much of my three decades of serving Jesus, I was addicted to the 3-B’s, measuring the ‘success’ or ‘failure’ of my church using three key components:
ucks in the offering.
utts in the seats.
Ever been there? Sadly, there are many in the church who labor under this westernized 3-B corporate approach to church life, where bigger is always better, and if your church isn’t growing numerically, something must certainly be wrong.
But, as I see it, there’s a reformation afoot. A quiet fire of the Holy Spirit that is touching many across the fruited plain of North America. Many pastors and church leaders are now deciding to stop-look-and-listen to the invitation of Jesus, stepping beyond the 3-B’s and finding a more simple and sustainable way to measure ‘success’ in church life. Through the help of some powerful tools of spiritual formation, and the inner freedom found by working alongside Christ-centered spiritual directors, I now consider myself to be a “recovering” 3-B pastor on my way to becoming a Christ-centered 3-C contemplative activist, measuring my ‘success’ today by simply following three ancient spiritual disciplines:
ommunion with Christ: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11: 28-30 (MsgB)
ommunity with others: “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matthew 22: 37-40 (MsgB)
ommission into our world: “God authorized and commanded Me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 18-20 (MsgB)
So, what is contemplative activism?
My spiritual director, Micha Jazz, explains it this way…
Contemplative activism combines two ideas; firstly, the essential, yet often lost, art of drawing aside with God for prayer. This so often becomes little more than habitual action and most often is primarily made up of our human voices carrying concerns to God with little space to pause and listen to what God might be saying to us. Contemplation provides a door to discovering so much more about ourselves, each other, God, and His ways. However, there is a danger having ascended the heights through contemplation; we may never return and make our descent back into the streets of chaos within which we are called to carry out the mission of God. Secondly, therefore, we seek to live out prayer by rolling up our sleeves and serving the needs of the surrounding community. The contemplative activist develops this rhythm of ascent and descent in living the Spirit-filled life.
Here’s how we arrived at our 3-C approach to the Christian life:
Henri Nouwen, in his book A Spirituality of Living, discusses, in length, these three life-giving spiritual disciplines found in the balanced life and ministry of Jesus…
“Now it happened in those days that Jesus went onto the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. When day came, He summoned His disciples and picked out twelve of them and called them apostles…He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of His disciples. There was a great crowd of people from all parts of Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear Him and be cured of their diseases. And people tormented by unclean spirits were also cured. Everyone in the crowd was trying to touch Him because power came out of Him that cured them all (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; then it creates a fellowship, a community of people with whom the mission is being lived; and finally this community goes out together to heal and to proclaim good news.
I believe you can look at (these) 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.”
We’ve taken Nouwen’s terminology for Jesus’ three key disciplines (solitude, community, and ministry) and simplified them into a memorable trio of 3-C’s, we call…
(C)ommunion with Christ.
(C)ommunity with others.
(C)ommission into our world.
Here at The Contemplative Activist, our desire is to encourage you to step out of the 3-B traffic, where (B)uildings, (B)ucks, and (B)utts in the seats define ministry success, and re-align yourself with these life-giving 3-C’s and by entering into the world of Christ-centered contemplative activism. Are you ready for this kind of reformation in your life, a quiet fire of God-renewal? We invite you to join us on that journey.