Yet in our busy, noisy, overstimulating mission field of the world, it is one of the church’s high callings to give the gift of silence, of greater spaciousness to make room for contemplative encounters with the means of grace, so that the Spirit may most freely do the works of salvation to form us in faith.
- Jonathan Linman, Holy Conversation
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What gift does the church have to give to such a world, to such lives?
It seems that, for many churches, the gifts they think they must offer entail more noise, more stimulation, more activity, perhaps even more stress.
Why do we do this?
Are there truly sound reasons for imagining that the best ways of introducing people to Jesus must involve competing with our culture’s busyness, frenetic pace, pumped-up volume, and manic multitasking?
What, instead, if our invitation was, “Come to the quiet”?
I remember a lesson a wise coach once taught me about getting the attention of a group of noisy, rambunctious kids. One’s natural instinct is to raise your voice higher and higher, to try to outdo them in volume, to yell and scream and demand that they shut up and listen. Instead, this man learned that a whisper usually did the trick better. He would make a motion to let his players know he had something to say, and then he would start addressing them in a low, calm voice. One by one, they would quiet down and shush each other so that they could hear what he was trying to tell them.
What if we did that instead?
What if the Lord is not in the earthquake, wind, or fire? What if: “After the fire, there was a sound. Thin. Quiet.” (1Kings 19:12, CEB)? What if moments of stillness are the settings that indicate God is present, ready to to converse with us?
Jesus bids us follow him, walk with him. At a walking pace. With a Friend. Having conversation. Aware of our surroundings. Attentive. Quiet. Personal. Peaceful.
What if our invitation to the world was the same?
“Come, sit with us at his feet as we listen and learn and contemplate his words.”
“Come, join us at the table for simple food and friendly conversation, for laughter and the pleasure of good company; unrushed, unforced.”
“Come into the sanctuary and spend time alone with God any time you like. Breathe. Light a candle. Watch the light dance and play as it shines through the stained glass. Smell the wood and fabric, saturated with incense. Imagine the saints and angels watching over you. Open a Bible, a hymnal, a prayer book. Listen. Listen. Speak if you must, but try to listen.”
“Come, slow down with us.”
“Come, let’s find the path of peace together.”
“Come, let us learn to do whatever work God calls us to do from hearts that are quiet, from spirits at rest in Jesus.”
“Come to the quiet.”
Imagine. What if…?