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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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Vital Signs: When it is just us

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 

Mark 1:35 

 

If you barely have time to skim read Word for the Week today, ironically, you’re the perfect person to pause and reflect more slowly this time. 

The first chapter of Mark builds a picture of increasingly rapid pace as Jesus’ public ministry kicks into gear. From Mark 1:9 onwards, there’s a deliberate repetition of urgent and immediate language – ‘just as’, ‘at once’, ‘when he had gone a little further’, ‘without delay’, ‘just then’, ‘as soon’, ‘immediately’, and more.  

This might be the busiest chapter in Jesus’ ministry or even the Bible. But alongside Mark’s fast action pace there is an intentional emphasis on the pause.  

Just as Jesus’ public ministry is gaining momentum, his private devotion is highlighted. And we know this time out for personal prayer is a pattern, not an exception. We have at least nine Gospel records of Jesus withdrawing to quiet places, and Luke 5:16 additionally reports that this happened often. 

Those readers who know Jesus’ pause in Mark 1 is coming might, perhaps, have lost the surprise element. Jesus is teaching, walking, healing, and responding, and yet, shockingly, he carves out time for time-out in prayer. And, of course, as disciples learning the way of Jesus in our busy lives, we should do the same. 

This is a simple but much-needed reminder when we think about whole-life discipleship. Wherever we find ourselves this week, in the office or factory, at the school gate or retirement home, we often focus on the noticeable fruit in public places. Indeed, we at LICC specifically highlight people’s frontlines. This frontline message is essential, but I always need to remind myself that my public attempts to ‘live as Jesus would’ are fuelled by privately living as Jesus did – through carving out time and finding quiet spaces and places for prayer. 

In Vital Signs – our new resource for church leaders, launching this week – we reflect on 20 key ways to embed whole-life discipleship in our churches. Some of these 20 ‘vital signs’ are less noticeable than others; they happen ‘when it’s just us’. Daily prayer is one of these, and it’s deliberately the first vital sign we look at.

But this isn’t just a lesson for church leaders. We must all have ‘when it’s just us’ aspects to our discipleship.  

Over the next three weeks we’ll stay in the first chapter of Mark, considering how whole-life discipleship can grow ‘when we gather’, ‘when we plan’, and ‘when we respond’. 

 

Ken Benjamin 

Director of Church Relationships at LICC and author of the Vital Signs book.

Keep an eye on our social media (@liccltd) later this week for the launch of Vital Signs!

What does finding places of pause amidst days of pace look like for you this week?

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