Jim Cymbala at the Jacksonville Pastors Conference
Being with Jesus in a World of Noise and Hype

I just watched the Pentecostal preacher Jim Cymbala give an altar call and about 400 Baptist pastors came forward for prayer. Here's what happened.

Cymbala told a moving story about his young grandson, an adopted child from Ethiopia named Levi. When Levi was two-years old, Cymbala loved holding him in his lap. They didn't have to do anything; they just sat together. Sometimes they rocked in a chair and watched SpongeBob Squarepants. But the point wasn't to do something with Levi; the point was to be with Levi.

Cymbala used this story (and his preaching text) to make a simple point: Jesus invites us to be with him–and sometimes that's the only "agenda" for our spiritual lives. Cymbala called it "sitting in his presence and listening to him." There's a big implications to this for pastoral leaders: we can't give to people what we haven't received from Jesus. So if we're not regularly listening to Jesus, just being with Jesus, receiving from Jesus, then we won't have much to give away to others.

Then Cymbala invited pastors and anyone else to come forward if we need to start spending more time being with and listening to Jesus. And that's when about half of the 800 people started streaming forward. Cymbala didn't have to cajole anyone; people came quickly and willingly. Based on this experience I'd conclude that evangelicals–especially leaders and pastors–are hungry to be with Jesus.

I wonder, though, if we can actually sustain this practice–this commitment to carve out time and space to be with Jesus on a regular basis—in the midst of our present evangelical milieu. I've been to two large, important evangelical conferences lately and they were very different but they had something in common: they were both stuffed with busyness, noise, and information–lots of information. Both conferences had so many incredible speakers on the schedule, so many new books to read, so many products to check out, and so much noise in the worship times that we just didn't have time to be with Jesus (although we did have time to talk about being with Jesus).

Don't get me wrong. I liked the content. I thought the messages were spectacular. But after awhile I felt like I need to detox from the noise and hype by checking into a Benedictine monastery for a few days? It's almost like we can't believe that God can actually do something unless we're talking about God doing something. Do we have such great faith in the power of words and information that we can't trust God to speak in our silence?

Displaying 1–7 of 7 comments


February 04, 2013  10:54am

In our culture, and I'm sure others as well, we certainly get caught up in our doing rather than our being. We often forget that taking our time to be with God is the focus, rather than what comes out of that time. Even in this article or comments it seems as though we can get focused on spending time with God so that we can fulfill the requirements of ministry, rather than spending time with God to enjoy Him. In the old book Practicing His Presence, Frank Labauch talks about his times spent with God and his conversations with God. He goes on to say that, "God is infinitely more important that His advice of His gifts; indeed, He, Himself, is the great gift." (33) This concept is often applied to the "Sign Gifts," or even to gifts of teaching or leadership - that we should seek God and not those gifts. But it was revolutionary for me to discover this concept as it applies even to time spent with God, that we are not spending our time with Him to seek His refilling or provision. We spend time with Him to enjoy who He is.

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November 15, 2012  12:05pm

Why is Jim Cymbala letting Chuck Schumer a liberal Senator speak from the Pulpit at BT? He is a frequent vistor. A staunch Transgernder, Gay Rights, lesbian same sex marriage supporter. A Staunch Pro Abortion support. He invited the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir to sing and celebrate Obama's Victory and they accepted? WHat is wrong with this picture? http://www.schumer.senate.gov/Newsroom/record.cfm?id=337267

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Jim Renke

February 01, 2012  9:53pm

I was at the conference you spoke of. I needed the break from doing. And it was refreshing just to sit and listen. I also am thankful that I felt the freedom to sit out some of the sessions, stay in my hotel room, or take a quiet walk by the river and just be with Jesus. I'm 6 months out of heart surgery and felt ministry speeding up again. This was the break I needed to get back a rhythm of dependence and quiet. The quiet is always there if you have the discipline to look for it.

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January 29, 2012  7:31pm

"... we can't give to people what we haven't received from Jesus" We can't give to people what God designed for THEM to give to each other as they ALL spend time with Him all week. Anyone who thinks God is going to funnel His will through one guy behind a pulpit is a functional Catholic and needs to get reformed.

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Dan Jr.

January 29, 2012  11:02am

Matt, I think the slightly embarrassing reality I've observed amongst my pastor friends is they don't honestly know what to do when they are alone. I recently shared with another pastor the nourishment of having a couple days of silence at a nearby monastery and he responded "I wouldn't know what the heck to do with 2 days of silence!" I think for many driven, commentary-loving, org-chart-creating pastors meditation, silence and stillness with God intimidates them. So they avoid it. It's almost like they need guided, step-by-step, apprenticing in how to steward stillness.

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January 29, 2012  3:51am

Your comment near the end is bang on the money: 'I wonder, though, if we can actually sustain this practice–this commitment to carve out time and space to be with Jesus on a regular basis—in the midst of our present evangelical milieu' I read something just last night about the rich young ruler whom Jesus told to give away all his possessions, and how he (the young man) had missed the point about going deeper. He wanted some new teaching but he didn't want to actually change his life. A lesson there for me, certainly...

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missional girl

January 28, 2012  8:26pm

I don't think any Christian, especially leaders, can afford to NOT spend time with Jesus. I can't speak for anyone else but whenever I find myself having to "carve time out" for the One who is over time, I know that there is way TOO MUCH on my plate. All that noise you hear might be fleshly (though well-meaning) attempts to do what spending time with Jesus would accomplish. I totally understand that we cannot remake the Church into the Second Coming of the First Century Church. Times are different; cultures have shifted. But there is way too much going on in the lives of leaders. We don't need more Christian conferences; we need more of Jesus saturating our lives.

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