“Slow down!” is the urgent signal that appears on my car’s dashboard at least once a year. It coincides with the first sign of warm weather. At some point on trips out of town, when I’ve been going at high speeds for a couple hours, it’ll start flashing. Then, if I don’t “slow down”, the accelerator will just stop functioning. I can press the gas pedal to the floor, but it’s not going to keep going. I have to pull over, turn the car off, and let it cool down. The issue occurs because of the way the vehicle is built. The computer isn’t insulated well enough, so the combination of wear and tear, the engine heat, and a hot day makes it demand a break. Once it cools down, the signal goes away and the accelerator returns to normal functioning. You might be thinking, “You should get your car fixed, bro.” You’re right, but don’t miss the point. I could drive slower and it wouldn’t overheat, but I know if I go 5-10 mph faster, I can save 10-15 minutes on the trip. Ironically, I end up losing 10-15 minutes of trip time on the side of the road, anxiously hoping passing vehicles are paying attention. My hurry is rarely ever helpful, and neither is yours.
We all need to know how to sabbath—a full stop to rest and delight in Jesus. Even as we’re living in the missional rhythms of life, season by season, we ought to slow down. Otherwise, the “full stop” comes by way of burnout and/or self-destructive behavior.
Slowing Down this Summer on Mission
It’s still spring, but, at least in Texas, summer has made its usual early arrival. Many tend to get busy having summer fun, determined not to waste a moment of sunshine and freedom, but I’m convinced the delight our soul is longing for is actually found in our slowing down to be with God. I think the arrival of summer in a society that seems to urge us to speed up and do more, is exactly when we should slow down the most to keep steady missional rhythms without exhausting ourselves. We are called to be about Kingdom work in all the ordinary moments of life, so we ought to take each day and each season as it comes and bless it.
Attempting to live at high speeds in the missional rhythms of B.L.E.S.S. (bless, listen, eat, speak, and sabbath) simply doesn’t work well. (Check out the resources listed below for more on the B.L.E.S.S. rhythms.) In order to connect with and care for the people in our lives this summer, or in any season, we must proactively move at the pace of relationships, seeking to share the truth of the gospel with patience and wisdom.
Some Thoughts on How to Slow Down
There are blog posts that offer some great missional ideas for your community this summer (linked at the bottom of the post). I want to highlight one idea that always seems to be effective, but then add a few things that may contribute to maintaining an intentionally slow pace as you follow the leading of the Spirit this summer.
- Backyard parties. Have simple yard games like corn hole, dominoes, or toss a frisbee around; whatever your cultural context enjoys. Add some games, toys, or crafts for the kids that are easy to organize, or have the older kids teach a game. You can make it a barbecue or cook out, but it’s also fine to just enjoy drinks. We have a “Thirsty Thursday” happy hour in our neighborhood. It’s just a casual BYOB time to hang out with no agenda but to connect. Keeping it simple makes it easier to ask others if they want to host the next one.
- Evening prayer walks. Prayerfully stroll your neighborhood. It’s not a race and it’s not merely a task to be accomplished. Walk with God up and down the streets considering the people in those homes. Think of how God sees them. You may know their needs, but if not ask the Spirit what and how to pray. Also consider asking other believers or even nonbelievers to go on these walks. Trust God will demonstrate His power when you’re faithful to pray (Ps. 145:18; Mark 11:24).
- Go on a relaxing vacation. Yes, this is missional too. Don’t consider the vacation an escape from life; rather, it’s a retreat to rest and delight in the Lord. Fun is a human need, and, if you rest in Jesus, you’ll likely return with renewed energy for the mission (Eccl. 2:24).
- Practice the Missional Examen. In the quiet of summer evenings, as the heat fades into the coolness of night, pausing to consider the goodness of God is a daily gift. Pay attention to how the Spirit is at work in the normalcy of everyday life. Let your heart be filled with gratitude. Use the Saturate Missional Examen guide by Brad Watson or your own practice to remember, reflect, rejoice and repent, and then re-engage life with greater awareness.
Many people will choose busyness this summer, but hurry is rarely ever helpful. May we be patient, steady, and more present than ever this summer on mission. May we resist the temptation to move at the speed of society and remain steadfast (1 Cor. 15:58; Gal. 6:9; James 1:12).
Check Out These Resources on B.L.E.S.S. Rhythms:
- This free resource clarifies what the B.L.E.S.S. rhythms are, and offers a framework for prayerful reflection and proactive planning around each one. (The original acronym of B.L.E.S.S. was given to us by Tim Chester. This resource was designed by our friends Kevin Platt and Chris Gonzalez.)
- Brad and Mirela Watson share more about how to practically make blessing others an everyday rhythm in this Saturate Podcast episode.
- Watch this video where Jeff Vanderstelt explains that the B.L.E.S.S. rhythms are not about adding things to your life, but taking what you are already doing and engaging with intentionality (included in your Saturate membership).