By Rev. Dr. Rob Haynes
We live in a culture that wants to move faster and faster still. But, is faster always better? There are some things about going slow that you cannot get when you are moving fast.
When I was serving as a youth minister, I took the youth group hiking to the top of a small mountain. At the end of the trail was a vista with a beautiful view of the city below. I had hiked it before, and I was eager for the young people to see the breathtaking view for themselves. As we quickly unloaded the vans, I rushed the youth to the trail. Once on the trail, we were soon met with a large fog bank. It appeared that we were not going to get to see the beautiful view at the end of the trail after all. We hiked on, mostly to keep with our planned program of holding devotions there, though at a slower pace because of the fog. Because of that slower pace, and because I was forced to carefully watch the trail beneath me, I began to notice things that I had not seen before. I found the tiniest, most beautiful flowers. I marveled at fascinating trees that I had missed before. We reached the trail’s end and had our time of Bible reading and devotions in the thick fog. Afterwards, we all closed our eyes for a time of prayer. When we all said “Amen” and open our eyes, we discovered that the fog had lifted during those few moments of prayer. There before us, splashed by the colors of the setting sun, was the most beautiful view of the city. By slowing down, we got to see the flowers on the trail immediately at our feet and the beauty that was still far away.
Slowing down can have a powerful effect on Christian discipleship and on faith-sharing alike. When we slow down, it is not just the deeper connecting with Creation that we notice, like on my hike. Moving at a slower pace allows us to stop and speak to our neighbors, to meet new people, or to renew old friendships. Remember that Jesus and the disciples did not zoom in to a community, stay a few moments, and zoom out. Rather, they walked from village to village with one another. And once there, they frequently remained with the people. Additionally, many of Gospel accounts take place inside a relatively small area and mostly in small villages. You see, they were known to one another and the residents of those communities. Not only did the disciples know the townspeople, but they would have known their family members, how they made their livelihood, and what they enjoyed doing. Jesus and the disciples did not hide behind a busy schedule, a social media profile, or a forced public persona. Rather, the people of Galilee knew Jesus and the disciples to be people who lived what they preached and preached what they lived.
Admittedly, there can be something a bit unnerving about moving at such a pace. We might be afraid to let people know us for who we are. In our modern world, it is easier to hide behind the screens of our devices or the impersonal nature of emails or electronic posts. It is easier to hide behind the busy pace of life to not allow others into the spaces in which we dwell. But these are not the exemplar principles of the Bible. Rather, abiding in the presence of God, waiting for the Lord, and being still before God are what we are taught to do. In much the same way, being present with others is key to faith-sharing. Such a presence includes active listening, lived compassion, and embodied empathy. This sort of things can only come when we move at a slow and deliberate pace. This allows us to join God in what is going on in someone else’s life.
Moving at such a pace in the modern world—literally and figuratively—forces us to live out a key component of faith-sharing: integrity. Not only will you get to see people around you with great clarity, but they will get to see you with greater clarity as well. For this reason, personal holiness is a key aspect to any sort of social holiness in missional service and/or faith-sharing.
I often hear people say that they are waiting on God. In a world that is moving at such a break-neck pace, maybe waiting on God is not so much about stopping and waiting for God to show up. Maybe waiting on God is, spiritually speaking, slowing down to God’s pace and walking together. A slow, deliberate, and faithful pace can impact our own discipleship, and impact those with whom we seek to share our faith.
Rev. Dr. Rob Haynes is the Director of Education and Leadership for World Methodist Evangelism. His new book, Consuming Mission: Towards a Theology of Short-Term Mission and Evangelism (Wipf & Stock) is now available: www.consumingmission.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.