Word and Prayer: Hunger now more than ever! (Acts 6:4, we are not finished just yet)

Why saturate your soul with Word and Prayer? Why consider these two practices as of preeminent importance among all the possible spiritually forming disciplines?

In a sense, the soul never sleeps. ‘Stuff’ goes into the soul all the time. Some of it quite good. Some, not so good. What you attend to in this hidden space impacts you. It has the profound effect of orienting and shaping you into the person you are becoming.

So, what do you wish to become? If you are reading this article it suggests that the NextGen Community provides the space for your soul to think well about matters of Gospel life, unreached Peoples, ministry, and soul care.

You are a servant of the Lord Christ and His Gospel. And, thus, you are in a battle in what is rightly called spiritual warfare. This is the place where you serve, pour out, sacrifice, live, dream, co-labor, experience deep joys with the Spirit, love well, see the Gospel get planted, and transform. But it is also the place where you get bruised, suffer weakness, doubt, frailty, fractured teaming, retreat, and at times defeat.

I’ve had my share of both kinds. Have you? Expect more to come from both sides of that continuum in your career ahead.

Thus, it behooves us to be intentional to care well for our souls. As I’ve made the case in the past two NextGen Conferences, this amazing thing we call ‘soul’ is God’s unique gift to you and me and offers a unique expression of you out into service and to a profoundly bruised world. The soul truly is a wonder.

In the North American life-cycle of ministry here is what is observed by studies:

Youth ministers last 18 months in their church before moving on;

Pastors last 2 years before resigning and moving on to another church;

Career mission service lasts 3 years on the field before resigning;

1 in 10 church plants last more than 5 years;

Ministers of the Gospel are an endangered species!

So, how then shall you survive and even thrive given such complexities to the task? The soul is the starting place of care, preparation, and longevity for your witness to the world.

We see how the apostles landed so decisively on Word and Prayer as the key resources for both their ministries and their souls. Acts 6:4 has been our grounding text for a season. We are not yet finished with these needed reflections.

So, why saturate your soul in Word and Prayer? Your soul needs it. The battle is fierce. And the ancient path of these apostles’ model such a proven path.

How are you doing since our April Virtual Conference? Making progress in attending well to your soul? What practices did you commit to? Convinced now of your need to attend well to this gift from God? Have we made an adequate case for you to own this call to attend well to your soul?

ACTION PLAN: What can you do to enhance your soul care? Here is one idea that is very tangible for each of us.

Take a personal retreat for your soul soon.

May I suggest you read the chapter by NextGen friend, veteran pastor and spiritual formation practitioner, Dave Earley, in his book, Prayer: The Timeless Secret of High-Impact Leaders. Read chapter 9 where Dave outlines very simple and practical steps to pursue a prayer retreat, especially pages 157-164. He starts with the way of Jesus then builds out simple steps. These steps are useful for us no matter the culture we find ourselves in. Remember in my April message, the eremois (desert way) of Jesus was the place where He attended to His own soul and prayer.

Press in and on dear NextGen Fam and Community. To the DESERT!

Together let’s attend well to our souls and grow in capacity to love and serve well our Lord, His Gospel and our respective tasks.

See you all again on September 14-16.

–Jim O’Neill