It was probably my senior year in college that I got the lucky job of being the host for the main speaker at a Navigator spring conference. My host duties included getting a fruit basket for his hotel room, walking with him to the venue, and even having meals with him. It was a great job and fit well into the Nav philosophy of discipleship – students were always encouraged to hang around these older guys who “got it”, who had been walking with God for a long time. And the speaker that spring was an old Navigator staff named Leroy Eims. Leroy was a terrific up front communicator, an author (The bestselling Lost Art of Disciplemaking, among others) and a former Marine with a thrilling World War II testimony about a guy dying next to him on some South Pacific island beach asking him, “Mister, do you know how to pray?” Leroy didn’t, and when he got out of the Army, he decided to find out, eventually becoming a Christian.
Leroy may have been a great up-front communicator, but one on one, at least with me, was a different story. I’ll never forget my dinner with him after he first arrived that Friday night: I could hardly pry words out of him. Now, in fairness, maybe he was tired, or maybe he was thinking about his message that night (as a speaker myself now, I can only imagine needing to go out to dinner with some nutty college student right before my opening keynote message at a conference). Either way, it was awkward. But then again, sometimes jewels come out of awkward meals with semi-famous author/speakers.
At one point over dinner, I began pouring out my heart to the guy, along the way asking him what he felt were the keys to really living the abundant Christian life. It was a long question, as I remember, and as I spoke, Leroy was sort of staring out into space – I didn’t even know if he was listening. And then when I finished my question, I waited, and I’ll never forget – he stopped staring around, turned and looked directly at me, and said one word: “Basics.” And then he resumed his staring into space, just like that.
It was a strange moment, but I never forgot it. The “Basics” were one of the great keys to living the Christian life.
“Basics” was a term I had heard many times before in the Navigators. The Navs used the word to refer to the four essentials of living the Christian life: The Word, Prayer, Witnessing and Fellowship. Leroy was pointing me to the keys that the Navigators always pointed to, and with good reason. They were essential parts of living the abundant Christian life. Witnessing and Fellowship were ways we related to other people, that is on the horizontal level of life. We witness to people outside of Christ and we fellowship with other believers. But Prayer and the Word were vertical – the way we related to God. All of this was summarized in the Navigator Wheel illustration (see diagram).
Some Christians today point to many different ways to cultivate a relationship with God. Usually they are referring to the various disciplines of the Christian life which include fasting, solitude and silence, among others. These are good, of course, and have biblical precedent; but in truth, they really should be conduits for the two primary ways God has given to us to know Him: His word and prayer. The Apostles knew the importance of these two vital aspects of the Christian life. We see in Acts 6 that were being drawn away from primary things to administration, specifically caring for the Greek widows, an important duty, to be sure…just not their duty…
“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty.
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:3-4 (ESV)
The Apostles needed to pray because they knew where true power in ministry came from. But they also needed to be faithful in preparation and preaching of the Word of God. People didn’t carry around Bibles in that day – they needed the teaching of the Apostles in order to be “in the Word.” In fact, this devotion to Apostolic truth was the crying need of the early church…and nothing is changed – it is the crying need of the church today. Christians need Biblical truth if they want to be set free…they need instruction in the gospel…they need to be able to discern error. And all this comes through the “Basics” of the word, and that word must be preached, and that word must be read and meditated on. It is the primary way we abide in Christ, and “Apart from (Him), we can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
This truth is not profound, but it may be the great “secret” of the Christian life. In fact, I imagine that it’s rare to find a believer who is thriving in his Christian life and not regular in the word (Psalm 1). And we know why: through prayer, we talk to God, but through the word, God talks to us. And when it comes to a strong and healthy spiritual life, there is nothing more important than Spirit-led deep and meaningful communication with our Heavenly Father. Everything is different for the believer who is regular in God’s word.
The early church made this word a focus, and the world of Ancient Rome was transformed…
And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. Acts 6:7 (ESV)
Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 18th: Acts 6