From 17 October to 7 November, we're doing a 4 weeks series on Sundays entitled Unforced Rhythms.
This is a phrase from Jesus’ words in Matthew 11: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”. The Message Bible beautifully paraphrases this as
"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."
Author and Pastor John Mark Comer comments on this: "The disciples are called to be with Jesus, to adopt his lifestyle and practices. Prayer. Studying Torah. Sabbath. Radical hospitality. Living in community. As a result they are changed, and were sent out by Jesus to do his works. To usher in the Kingdom of God. The practices of Jesus change the orientation of our hearts, attitudes, affections, appetites."
As we somewhat gingerly emerge from the constraints of the last 18 months, we sense that it is time to invest again in our relationships with God ー both as individuals and as communities. Apparently, surveys show that 40% of people want a ‘lifestyle change’ right now (for example, they are considering changing jobs). But maybe God wants deeper change in his people?
Also, God has been speaking about our church culture, as part of what we called our Future Focus. Alongside clarity of vision and focus, God wants to grow us as a community that humbly waits and rests upon God. Of course we also act, but we act from prayer first, gladly accepting that God alone makes things grow.
A third reason for looking at this topic, is as an antidote to some of the challenges of modern life, which has been described as scattered (our schedule is full but doesn’t reflect our purpose and priorities), hurried (we’re busier than we want to be, but don’t know what to change), reactive (it seems we’re never in charge, always responding to demands) and exhausted (we end each day weary and discouraged, unsure if we’ve spent it well).
In the preaching series, we've asked a range of leaders to speak, to connect with different people across the church, and to speak with personal real-life experience and lots of examples. So this is a really practical series!
We'll be looking at 9 key habits, and recommending that over the series each individual and each community adopt just one new habit, in order to do that well. Families and households may also want to get involved together. (In January 2022 and possibly Lent 2022 we will come back to the topic, to help embed change.)
There are loads of spiritual disciplines/habits/approaches that Christians use, and so for this series we've decided to focus on these 9 key habits, as the habits most likely to lead to other changes:
1. Disconnecting (inc solitude, silence, retreat)
2. Connecting (community)
3. Openness and honesty (inc lament, examen)
6. Feasting and celebration
7. Bible (inc study, mediation, reflection)
8. Listening to Holy Spirit
9. Listening with others (in worship, prayer and prophetic)
How can individuals and Communities participate?
What we'd like to ask you to do is to take two evenings in your Community:
- Take one evening to review this list, firstly as individuals (perhaps in smaller groups of 3 or 4), and then as community together. We're recommending that over the series each individual and each community adopt just one new habit, in order to do that well. It will work best to do this week after the Sunday series has run for a couple of weeks (so from the 25th October onwards).
- Then, take a second evening to have a go at your chosen community new habit. You might feast together, or fast, or listen to the Holy Spirit. Decide. Then do it a couple of weeks after the first session.
Don't know where to start?
Perhaps you've not prayed before, or don't quite know where to start. Watch this short video: www.instagram.com/tv/CUdIuJPlmu9
In the last 30 years (so not just recent, and in the pandemic), a lot has been written and said about finding better habits and rhythms of life, as an antidote to the time-crazy world we live in. Here are a few resources we have found particularly useful in developing the preaching series:
- The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer (2019), www.thebigchurchread.co.uk/product/the-ruthless-elimination-of-hurry
- Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction, Justin Earley (2019), www.ivpress.com/the-common-rule
- Monk Habits for Everyday People: Benedictine Spirituality for Protestants, Dennis Okholm (2007) www.amazon.co.uk/Monk-Habits-Everyday-People-Spirituality/dp/1587431858
- On keystone habits, www.businessinsider.com/keystone-habits-that-transform-your-life-2015-8
- Stats quoted above: www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-58086629 and www.theguardian.com/money/2021/aug/12/ready-to-quit-your-job-here-are-t…
For a wider list of resources, check out our blog on Broadening your (spiritual) diet.