I am a cycler. I am, however, not a cycler like those who compete in the Tour de France. But for an old guy I don’t do too bad cycling the back roads of Wisconsin (just north of where I live.) For example last Monday, a buddy and I cycled almost 30 miles averaging 15 mph – it was a hard ride, hot and humid and took a while to recover.
I am also a Tour de France junkie. The Tour is going on right now and every evening I catch the days updates on NBCSN. The thing that always amazes me is the physical conditioning, the stamina that these riders have – climbing 8 – 10 percent grades going faster than I do on flat land, riding day after day (with only two days of rest during the whole Tour) distances of between 120 to 160 miles – I need a whole day off after I do a ride of over 50 miles, and I really get wiped out if the temperature and humidity give a “feel-like” temperature above 90 degrees.
Cycling requires conditioning, stamina, and just the ability to pull off the unbelievable day after day – just take a look at what Christopher Froome from Great Britain is doing this year). Likewise, being missional requires a certain kind of stamina as well – a stamina that involves us in seeking to see what God sees every day, a stamina that gives ourselves to participate with God in what God is doing all around us.
I know that it’s easy to get tired, wanting to coast, just wanting to continue doing what we have started doing with God – but God keeps doing new and amazing things every day. Being missional is not about our setting the pace, but keeping up with God in what God is doing in making all things new. Keeping up with God, however, is not merely a matter of our own conditioning, our own stamina – because there is no real way we can keep up with God – after all, we are not God.
However, there is a certain stamina involved which engages us in a certain discipline of seeing and hearing God, setting aside our own comforts, seeing people and the world through God’s eyes, rather than our own. This stamina, I submit, is a continual yielding of ourselves to the presence of the Spirit in our lives, in our contexts, in our actions.
I often begin my days with writing out an agenda of what I need to get done, but I am realizing when I do this, I am already starting out the day in my own way, seeking to accomplish my purposes. Missional stamina, on the other hand, begins with connecting with the Spirit of God, wiping the sleep out of our eyes so that we may see what God wants us to see, to notice what God wants us to notice. This connecting and adjusting of our eyes, ears and hearts begins with tuning into God – through Scripture engagement, through prayer, through spiritual conversation/reflection with a mentor (be it face to face with someone who is walking with us, or through the writings of an historical person).
The purpose of conditioning ourselves to develop missional stamina in this way is to begin to regard our lives, not as our own, but ready for engaging in the purposes of God. In preparing ourselves each and every day to be open to God, to notice whom and what God notices, we will find ourselves still writing our agendas of what we need to get done, but I sense what makes up the list will be quite different things, placing ourselves in situations we did not readily anticipate.
It is easy to lose missional stamina as we get caught up in our day to day routines. I am finding that to be true of myself – and so I am appreciative that the congregation I serve grants me a monthly study leave every summer for my own realignment to God and the purposes of God.
This summer I am not focused on producing anything, but seek to be focused on listening to God, to notice more clearly whom and what God is noticing all around me. I seek to develop my missional stamina, by becoming more sensitive to the things that touch the heart of God. My mentors this summer are Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, Dorothy Bass, Miroslav Volf, and Bob Ekblad. As I read and reflect, as I listen to God speaking through these authors, through Scripture, I am hopeful I will be realigned, invigorated, and that I will regain the stamina to be and live in missional ways – being an active participant with God in God’s mission, participating in living out God’s desire for justice and shalom in our world.
It is just too easy to get caught up in my own thing – Scripture is full of accounts of how we as the people of God get caught up in our own ways. Being missional is no ride in the park, rather it is a ride which invites us to participate with God in what God envisions in re-creating all of creation. It is my prayer that we would continually be open to the Spirit’s development of missional stamina in our lives as our only agenda becomes God’s agenda in our lives.