Several years ago, I was attending a conference in Atlanta for youth pastors. At one of the general sessions, a band came up on stage that I had never heard of before… they were called The City Harmonic. It was quiet, there was an upright piano on stage, and the band took their places. The pianist was standing – not sitting- at the piano.
All of a sudden, he started to play the first few measures on the piano and the entire room leaned in with their jaws dropped. It was what is now the familiar song most of us have heard on Christian radio called Manifesto.
He was playing with passion, and effortless energy and unforced precision… and he was singing, too! He made it look so easy.
When I got home from that event, I was still humming the melody, and thought to myself, “How hard could it be to play that?” I taught piano for a few years, so this shouldn’t be too difficult.
I ordered the music, it came, and I sat down at the piano with it. It would be amazing to tell you that within hours I was standing, playing, and singing with effortless passion all at the same time just like The City Harmonic… but you know better. 🙂 I gave it a few hours until I realized that there was a long road of practicing ahead of me to ever be able to play Manifesto the way he did.
We do this with discipleship in a way. Like when I’m around someone like Beth Guckenberger, I can observe how she engages with the Lord and the effortless way Scripture flows out of her… and I can forget that there are spiritual practices that she has learned and disciplines she has been consistent in that have made up the overflow I’m experiencing of her discipleship.
I think we forget that there are spiritual practices we walk out and work on and learn. Matthew 11:28-30 talks about this when Jesus says, “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.”
We forget that the unforced first comes from the learning. Sometimes basic spiritual practices are things I wish I didn’t have to put the time into… I kind of just want the time on stage where the fruit of the practice is flowing out of me.
Can we be honest as ministry leaders? Have there been times in your life as a leader that you would say there have been weeks (maybe months) without spending dedicated time in Scripture, prayer, worship, or other spiritual practices?
To take it a step further, can you make the connection that when this was the case in your life, it was also the time you were most worn out? Burned out? Tired of religion?
There is a direct connection between those spiritual practices and our endurance as disciples and leaders. The unforced rhythms of grace are worth learning, and He showed us the way. He promised to show us how to carry this, and we must look at His way, practice His way, and learn from His way… this is how the unforced rhythms of grace find their way into our lives and leadership.
Today, I encourage you to pause and consider just one spiritual practice that you need to give attention to this week. Pray for the Lord to give you focus and clarity to be able to pursue it and practice it. Let a close friend know that you want to incorporate this rhythm into your life and leadership.
As you do this, my prayer is that your heart will be encouraged as you fix your eyes on Jesus and allow Him to teach you to carry what you’re facing in your life today!
P.S. This concept of Unforced Rhythms of Grace will be our theme for Children’s Pastors Conference 2020. I can’t wait to share more about CPC and how it can help you make space for the spiritual practices and learn the unforced rhythms of grace.