I was fascinated recently to read a Pew Research Center study published in Christianity Today.
The research suggests that although the figures for church attendance across America generally indicate a decline in church attendance, evangelical churches seem to be holding steady in their attendance overall.
But that wasn’t the thing that struck me the most. It also spoke about why people go to church on Sundays.
The two biggest reasons were:
Feeling closer to God
Having a place where their children can be nurtured and discipled
As I considered this data it confirmed to me to the sense I’ve had for some time - that a malady that has struck deep into the heart of American, and beyond that Western, Christianity. One of the symptoms of this malady is a decline in teaching encouraging Christians to have a daily devotion—a Quiet Time, as we used to call it.
Soon after I became a Christian, in my teenage years, I was encouraged pretty much on a weekly basis by those around me—people who led worship on Sundays, pastors, and other mature Christians—to have a daily ‘Quiet Time’ when I prayed and read my Bible. I was told very clearly that this was absolutely necessary for a mature and deep and vibrant spirituality.
I don’t hear this message much today - it seems we have entirely capitulated to the message that people’s lives are too busy and have too much stress to take it on. Of course, I wonder whether the increase in stress is because we don’t have daily devotions!
To be quite honest I think this is a desperate and terrible shame.
As I was reading through the Pew research material, I felt as though God was speaking to me:
“Please tell they don’t have to wait for Sunday…
…they don’t have to wait for Sunday to feel close to me…
…they don’t have to wait for Sunday to be aware of my presence.”
I absolutely believe this to be the case. We really don’t have to wait for Sunday.
Of course, it is difficult, of course, there are pressures that work against us having our daily times with God. I’ve not been impervious to these things myself and so one of the things I’ve committed myself to over the years is leading my teams in daily devotions, encouraging them to hear the Scriptures, to pray individually and collectively, and, most importantly, to excavate a ‘well’ for themselves. I’ve often said that when it comes to the spiritual life it’s better to have a well than a bucket.
It seems to me that the Pew report is telling us that the average Christian in America is really carrying a bucket and has no real access to a well. They have a bucket that they take with them on Sunday, and they fill it up with their experience of God’s presence, hoping that will sustain them.
But like the old song says, there’s usually a hole in that bucket, and before long, the sense of God’s presence recedes. It leaks out.
How much better would it be if we all had a well (and a bucket, for that matter) so we could draw on the waters of life ourselves on a daily basis!
I’m always reminded when I think of this particular metaphor of Martin Lloyd Jones’ famous sermon on revival, where he cites Genesis 26:18: “Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.”
Isaac was a wise man. He reopened wells that his father had dug, wells that had been stopped up by the Philistines.
I don’t know whether there are Philistines around, blocking up the wells of life and revival. I think it’s more important that, like Isaac, we take on the responsibility to return to the spirituality that led us to faith, and to the spirituality of the people who were instrumental in bringing us to our faith. Those spiritual fathers and mothers who led us to Christ so often emphasized the need for a personal devotional life built on quiet times, every day.
I’ve committed myself to share this message over the years and have even developed daily devotions that can help my brothers and sisters to dig their own well (available at https://daily-devotionals.teachable.com). In these devotions, my intention is not to give people little tidbits or morsels that they can take away and feed on until the next day. My intention is to give these friends an opportunity to experience the richness of Scripture and a depth of revelation that will inspire them to dig deeper for themselves and open wells that can help them to know the Lord better and feed their very souls.
If your daily devotions have begun to languish I hope you hear this challenge and are stirred again to take up the call of a daily walk with Jesus that involves an organized, scheduled time of prayer and Bible reading. Whether I have the honor of walking with you in this is beside the point – go reopen that well!
You can find daily audio devotions led by Mike at https://daily-devotionals.teachable.com. We offer an annual and monthly subscriptions for ongoing devotions as well as smaller sections of Scripture.
Previously Published AUGUST 20, 2018