Contend Earnestly: "Quiet Times" Are Overrated

Monday, May 17, 2010

"Quiet Times" Are Overrated


****Disclaimer****

I believe that knowing what the Bible says, is essential to spiritual growth. Without knowing the words of truth, from our God, we would all go on our own way and what seemed good in our own hearts.

Thanks to David Drake for asking for some sort of disclaimer on this post. :)

******************

Growing up, my parents never made me do a "quiet time" nor did I ever know if they did one on their own. Actually, after speaking to my dad (who has always been either a pastor or elder since I was born), he admits he hasn't done regular "quiet times" for over 40 years. So, I am not sure where my thought process of feeling so sinful as I have dealt with quiet time "regulations" over the past 6 years. I have been told, and been preached to by many, how important a quiet time is for those who follow Jesus. You might be thinking of something different when you hear quiet time, so I'll give you my thoughts when I hear the term (besides the fact of wondering what people did before the 15th century when there wasn't a printing press). For me, it means spending a certain time, on certain days, reading and studying the Bible and praying. Now, the idea doesn't seem to be wrong. And, that's not what I am saying with this post. But, what I have been told, is that it is necessary to have one on a regular basis to aid in sanctification. Here is the problem. I have never done it on a regular basis. The closest I have come in doing this is when I was preaching/teaching twice a week and was studying the Bible for the sake of teaching it. Further, "rules and regulations" are put on quiet times. Such as:

How long should I have a quiet time?
What part of the day should I have a quiet time?
Should I have quiet times with others?
Should I have a quiet time with my wife? With another brother in Christ? With my children?

If you read those above and you say, "yes, I have always done all these!" I find that interesting, and totally fine. But, I read all those above and have to be honest: I have never done any of the aboved mentioned on a regular basis. This might just add to the fact of why some believe me to be a heretic. But, I have always desired to have a quiet time. I have always desired to have a study with my wife, with my children and with my friends on a regular basis. But, what seems to happen is that I never "stay with it" and to be honest, it is a real burden, instead of something I find to be a joy. But, the only reason I have desired to do it, is because I have been told I am supposed to want to do a quiet time if I love Jesus. The fact is, I feel like I love Jesus, but I hate and don't desire traditional quiet times in any way.

I will say that I have always been slow to admit this kind of stuff to others, knowing how most feel about quiet times. Meaning, it seems most that I have run into have very legalistic thoughts about how to "meditate" on the word of God and how to "meet God" and worship him. I was discussing this with a close friend and we both don't want to be lazy with our time with God, but we also want to honor the way that God has made us and be able to worship God in joy, instead of a burden.

Quiet time has always been a burden for me. So, like all burdens, I avoid them like the plague. After discussing this with my wife, which we both realized a long time ago that us studying anything together on a regular basis was going to put us on a road to divorce, she confirmed my thoughts on this subject. What if God made us all different? What if to "meditate" and "worship" God happened more through how God made us, instead of pushing one form of meditation and worship on all persons? What if God allowed us to worship him through the personalities and desires he has given us? After thinking through this, I received the below in a PDF format that showed the different ways people seek and worship God. Although I am more apt to study the Bible by myself, the way I teach my kids and lead my wife is by redeeming certain areas of our life and also bringing about the redemptive understanding of the Gospel in different areas/situations that come up in our lives on a daily basis.

So, when playing catch with my sons, I might speak about the glory of God. When disciplining or building up my sons, I will use Scripture to speak God into their lives. When I am wrong, I apologize to my children and speak to them about the cross and resurrection. When eating, I point to God's provision. I am more apt to teach my children theology through daily life, instead of systematizing theology with them, even though this is how I personally learn.

Here is the list of 9 ways people seek God. Which one are you? And, am I crazy for admitting and not desiring some Western thinking of how to "meditate on the word of God"? Have we put more importance on the means instead of the end game, which is to worship God and enjoy him forever?

Sacred Pathways
by Gary Thomas


Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors
Naturalists would prefer to leave any building, however beautiful, to pray to God beside a river. Leave the books behind - just let them take a walk through the woods, mountains, or open meadows. Naturalists learn to seek God by surrounding themselves with all that he has made.

Sensates: Loving God with the Senses
Sensate believers want to be lost in the awe, beauty and splendor of God. They are drawn particularly to the liturgical, the majestic, the grand. When these believers worship, they want to be filled with the sights, sounds, and smells that overwhelm them. Incense, intricate architecture, classical music and formal language send their hearts soaring.

Traditionalists: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
Traditionalists are fed by what are often termed the historic dimensions of faith: rituals, symbols, sacraments and sacrifice. These believers tend to have a disciplined life of faith. Frequently they enjoy regular attendance at church services, tithing, keeping the Sabbath, and so on. Traditionalists have a need for ritual and structure.

Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity
Ascetics want nothing more than to be left alone in prayer. Take away the liturgy, the trappings of religion, and the noise of the outside world. Let there be nothing to distract them - no pictures, no loud music - and leave them alone to pray in silence and simplicity. Ascetics live a fundamentally internal existence. Even when they are part of a group of people, they might seem to be isolated from the others. They are uncomfortable in any environment that keeps them from “listening to the quiet.”

Activists: Loving God through Confrontation
Activists serve a God of justice, and their favorite Scripture is often the account of Jesus cleansing the temple. They define worship as standing against evil and calling sinners to repentance. These believers often view the church as a place to recharge their batteries so they can go back into the world to wage war against injustice. Activists may adopt either social or evangelistic causes, but they find their home in the world of confrontation.

Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others
Caregivers serve God by serving others. They often claim to see Christ in the poor and needy, and their faith is built up by interacting with other people. Whereas caring for others might wear many of us down, this recharges a caregiver’s batteries. Perhaps the supreme example of this temperament is Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration
Excitement and mystery in worship is the spiritual lifeblood of enthusiasts. These believers are the cheerleaders for God and the Jesus-following life. Let them clap their hands, shout “Amen!” and dance in their excitement, that’s all they ask. If their hearts aren’t moved, if they don’t experience God’s power, something is missing. They don’t want to know concepts, but to experience them, to feel them and to be moved by them.

Contemplatives: Loving God through Adoration
Contemplatives refer to God as their lover, and images of a loving Father and Bridegroom predominate their view of God. Their favorite Bible passage might be taken from the Song of Songs. The focus is not necessarily on serving God, doing his will, accomplishing great things in his name, or even obeying God. Rather, these believers seek to love God with the purest, deepest and brightest love imaginable.

Intellectuals: Loving God with the Mind
Intellectuals might be skeptics or committed believers, but in either case they are likely to be studying doctrines like Calvinism, infant baptism, ordination of women and predestination. These believers live in a world of concepts. “Faith” is something to be understood as much as experienced. They may feel closest to God when they first understand something new about him.

6 comments:

Liz Thatch said...

Thank you so much for this. I have always, always struggled on making a "quiet time" something regular. I always feel like I am the only person struggling with this, and have always wondered if it was something that had been forced into 21st century Christianity. I'm glad I'm not the only person struggling with this, and I love thinking about it in a new way. :)

Joseph Louthan said...

THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS!

I am retweeting/facebooking this like wildfire.

I have been a Christian for 3 years and keep hearing pastors talk about quiet time. I am like, what? That is nuts.

This is almost like a personality test. I fall in the combination of Enthusiast & Intellectual. I suspect that many people would be a combination of sorts.

Anonymous said...

Seth -
it seems the problem with posting something like this is similar to preaching a sermon on "the eternal submission of the Son to the Father" to a group of new converts: what you're saying may be correct but it get's either confused, completely missed, or abused by those more immature in the faith to justify either their laziness or sin.
Simple fact is, God has revealed Hgimself to us through Christ firstly and then trhough His Word. We can learn much about God through creation, or beauty, or art, or books or music, etc. but ALL of those things will only give us a part (i'm quite certain i don't need to explain to you the difference between general and special revelation!) So, first issue could be someone who is just plain lazy in their pursiut of Christ reads this post and feels and woderful sense of relief that "quiet time" (however they happen to re-interpret what you wrote) isn't neccessary for ALL Chrsitians just some.
Another problem would be you can confuse the issue even more by not tackling what a "quiet time" actually is (in my mind, a MUCH more helpful post). The simple fact is without regular time spent in God's Word (not thinking about Him or enjoying creation or whatever else, but actually readin and seeking to understand what He has clearly revealed about Himslef) you will not grow much if at all in your love for and obedience to God - how COULD you when you're not studying what He;s actually said?!
Here's a simple analogy from my own life: i too struggled with having a regular time in God's Word (if i had one at all). It wasn't until later in life that i understood why: #1 - i was lazy and simply undisciplined and so i didn't do anything regularly and #2 - i don't think i was regenerated at the time so what should have felt like an amazing blessing (spending time growing and learning about this amazing God who saved me) felt like "a chore" that had to be accomplished. Now these were just my reasons. There may be many others as to why people would say you can have a growing, maturing relationship with God and not spend regular time in the Bible, but they are simply not true! All the things this guy mentions in his article are great but they all should be adjuncts to a regular study and love of God's Word not a replacement of it as though they were all equal but different choices.
My plea to you is just to be very careful that, in your own frustration with the church or things taught in the church (BTW the regular study of God's Word is not a "western, 21st C Christian concept), that you don't either embitter or confuse others who are either lazy or immature in their faith and simply b/c the've confused justification with sanctification. I think i get what you're saying in your post, but even those two comments so far show that you may be doing more damage by this line of thinking ("Church programs suck", "Quiet Times are overrated") than helping - something i believe you "earnestly" desire to do. Studying God's Word (at ANY level) is never something we "have to do" - if you're thinking that way you've already got it wrong; it something we GET to do. In my view, Thomas should have added a tenth category to his pathways to seek God: the Biblical one!
W.
Snatched from the fire

SnatchedFromTheFire said...

Read your post and then my comment again and thought i'd add.
Sure, your disclaimer says "I believe that reading the Bible and knowing what it says, is essential to spiritual growth", but then your post honestly seems to go on to say, "but other people find other ways without it"! Honestly, all due respect to this guy but Joseph's comment is case in point to what i was saying before about your words being used as justification for spiritual immaturity.
Forget the term "quiet time" altogether if needs be but don't write a dsiclaimer like you did then write a post that says the exact opposite! The fact that you had to write a disclaimer like that at all should have been your first clue that maybe there were some "problems" with your post. Gotta keep coming back to the name of you blog: contending for the faith handed down once for all to the saints: how has it been handed down to us? by walking around in the woods and "thinking about God" or by the inspired Word of God?

Contend Earnestly said...

Wesley.

Your paradigm is very 21st Century/Western in thought. Time in the Bible, the written word per se, has only been available to a few percentage of the overall elect in history and cultures. The fact is, for most people today, and in history, oral is the only way the Word of God was communicated. With that in view, by saying that one must be in the Bible, reading it, etc. is only one way to do so. It is primarily Western and Modern. For the most part in historical Christianity, the average person learned through the oral communication of what was written or told to them by their leadership. So, how would these people worship God the rest of the time away from leadership?

I am not saying quiet times are bad. What I am saying is that they aren't the only way to worship and seek after God. The disclaimer is actually a bad one. I shouldn't have put "reading God's word is essential..." I should have put, "knowing God's word is essential..." Because knowing what God's word is far more important than sitting down and reading it. If not, history tells us that we should be far superior in our maturity and sanctification than our previous brothers and sisters in Christ....which isn't the case.

Knowing God's word and applying it to your everyday life to worship Him, and Him alone is the most important thing in life...how we do this is different in our lives and that's why I wrote the post.

I also cannot disagree with you more on saying that if I write posts like this, people can take it and keep being lazy, etc. That's the same logical fallacy that people use on why not to preach too much grace because then people will think it is right to just be licentious and careless with sin. Bad logic. And so is yours.

To be blunt. Whether you like it or not, your answers here and in other places show that your paradigm of Western thought is a closed system that is correct, not just a cultural understanding of knowing and experiencing God.

I reject that. It is only one way. Not THE way.

I would highly recommend you read from other people who aren't Western and find out some of the blind spots you might have.

Don't take this comment as me saying, "get lost" or anything of the sort. But know that I don't agree with your understanding of what it means to know God's word and how to experience God's word in everyday life.

Remember...when we talk about prescriptive elements of the Word of God, they are only prescriptive if they speak to all cultures of all time.

Peace bro. And know that I DO contend earnestly for the faith that was handed down from God to the prophets, from Jesus to the apostles, from the apostles to the early church fathers, from the early church fathers to us. But, that faith, that understanding of God's redeeming mankind to himself through the cross and the resurrection has zero to do with whether one does a quiet time.

Mr. Anonymous said...

Quiet times are important because they were important to Christ. Living out only one of these aspects you post is dangerous and we fool ourselves into thinking that if I am a nature lover that I don't need to spend times in the Scriptures or being socially active.

The approach, not the act is wrong. I have done many a thing which I don't love, but God used that to grow me.

Just because we don't like it doesn't mean we can throw it out with the bathwater.

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