Saturday, July 12, 2008

How Can We Practice a Ministry of Silence?

This is the next question that Henri Nouwen tackles for us. He says “It requires a strenuous discipline to make our ministry one that leads our people into the silence of God. That is the task Jesus has given us. The whole of Jesus’ ministry pointed away from himself to the Father who had sent him. To his disciples Jesus said, ‘The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself; it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work’ (John 14:10). Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, spoke not to attract attention to himself but to show the way to his Father: ‘I came from the Father and have come into the world and now I leave the world to go to the Father’ (John 16:28). ‘I am going to prepare a place for you . . . so that where I am you may be too’ (John 14:2-3) (The Way of The Heart, Ballantine Books, 1983, page 42).

After noting the overly chatty nature of contemporary society, Nouwen concludes by observing that the sensitive use of silence in ministry (especially during quiet periods in corporate worship services) can move people towards an experience of God as a God of love: “couldn’t this be accomplished by gently and carefully converting the empty silence into a full silence, the anxious silence into a peaceful silence, and the restless silence into a restful silence, so that in this converted silence a real encounter with the loving Father could take place? What a power our word would have if it could enable people to befriend their silence!” (page 43).

The way Jesus spoke, and the way we speak as His followers, can influence people to begin to search for their Heavenly Father and to begin to listen to Him. As Eugene Peterson’s translation of John 14:-10 says in The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language (NavPress, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 2002):

“The words I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.”

As you minister to others may your Heavenly Father craft each word you speak so that it works divinely in the minds and hearts of those who listen. Let there be carefully crafted words accompanied by carefully crafted moments of silence.

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