I moved to Charlotte from the small town of Kernersville in 2002. My wife and I immediately noticed how much faster the pace of life is here in Charlotte. Even our closest friends rarely drop by unannounced, people don't simply "hang out" for long periods of time. Spending time with anyone seems to require coordinating busy calendars 2 to 3 weeks out. Over the past year or so, I've begun to be aware of the spiritual affect living in this fast-paced culture has had on me. Regularly experiencing Jesus in deep, meaningful ways has become increasingly difficult since coming to Charlotte. At times if wondered if this was just part of being a pastor in a busy church plant, or having kids who are older and busier and require more of me. But as I've thought about it more and talked with, pastored, and counseled other busy Charlotteans, I've come to believe the typical fast-pace of our urban living is a significant obstacle to experiencing Jesus more deeply.
Recently, I was able to attend a Spiritual Formation Retreat led by Fil Anderson of Journey Resources and Steve and Gwen Smith of The Potter's Inn. For 5 days I was in a secluded setting without access to cell phone calls, text messages, or email. We were encouraged not to bring laptops (which felt a bit like leaving my favorite blanket at home). I was amazed at how each day of living at a slower pace, disconnected from the constant flow of interruptions allowed my soul to settle and made it easier to be aware of God's presence.
I've been fortunate to be mentored by men who emphasized intimacy with Jesus over doing for Jesus (especially for pastors). They introduced me early on to Eugene Peterson, who's written extensively for pastors, calling them to minister out of a deep personal spiritual life. The vast majority of these men also lived that principle out strikingly well. I'm also a pastor which means I have a great degree of control over my schedule. And I'm grateful to be in a church where my spiritual health is valued over my performance. In spite of all that, I constantly get pulled into the city's culture of busyness and constant availability. And as a result, I regularly find myself detached from my own soul and from Jesus.
Because I've had tastes of living differently in other contexts and more recently enjoyed something better during my 5 days of retreat, I desperately want to figure out how to live with a healthy spirituality in the midst of my urban context. I firmly believe that leaving the city isn't the answer. The New Testament is primarily about the gospel going forth in cities and transforming them. The apostles' pastoral letters encourage people how to live out their faith in churches planted in urban centers. They call believers to be salt and light and transform the cities they're in rather than try to escape from them. So, healthy spirituality must be possible in urban settings, but it will most definitely be a counter-cultural swimming against the tide.
So, my hope for this blog is that it will be more than just my own thoughts and ramblings, but rather a source of conversation, brain-storming, and encouragement amongst like-minded friends who long to live differently, swim against the urban current, and walk more intimately with our Savior.