The Pastor, Baby Steps, and a Deeper Spirituality, pt. 3


If you haven’t already, let me suggest that you go back and read pt 1 and pt. 2.

Do you feel like your depth of intimacy with God is an inch deep, while your ministry responsibilities stretch you a mile wide? I want to help you experience God beyond the shallows. I believe it’s possible to go deeper.

Don’t you wish you were more deeply spiritual? Something keeps reminding you that your personal intimacy with Jesus is the most important thing, but there are so many other things that pull you in the opposite direction. There is the person you are and the person you want to be, and you wish you could close that gap. You can. It can close. It will take a lifetime, but it can close little by little.

Movement in the right direction, no matter how small, will eventually get you where you want to be. Moving toward a deeper spirituality through the spiritual practices that will get you there (Bible reading, prayer, meditation, devotional reading, journaling, etc.) is not about giant steps but about baby steps. Here’s three out of nine steps to help you get started.

Step Seven: When you fall off the horse get back on and leave the guilt behind.

Notice I said when, not if. There will be days when you won’t meet with God as you had planned. Sometimes this will be your fault and sometimes it will be the result of circumstances beyond your control. This has to be expected and accepted. The question is not whether we’ll break our spiritual disciplines routine, but what we do after we break them.

I suggest when you fall off the horse that you calmly climb back in the saddle (resuming your practices) and leave guilt on the ground beside your imprint. It does little good to beat yourself up. We get so upset when we fail. It’s as if we expected not to.

I’m not surprised when I fail. What surprises me is when I succeed. I’m surprised that I don’t fail more, not that I fail as much as I do.

No need to flog yourself. Don’t start over; just pick up where you left off.

Step Eight: Watch out for self-righteousness and legalism.

It’s unfortunate but few things lend themselves to self-righteousness or legalism quite like pursuing a deeper spirituality. You don’t see them at first, but they creep up on you.

Self-righteousness sneaks in suggesting thoughts like, “I’ve gone 1,463 days without missing a single day of having my quiet time. What day are you on, huh, huh? What’s that? You don’t have a quiet time? Oh, poor thing. I’ll pray for you on day 1,464.” We would never actually say this. But do we think it? Sometimes.

Legalism appears in our thoughts saying skewed comments like, “I better not skip my quiet time today. I’ve got to preach in the morning and I want God to show up.” Or, “I bet the reason I had such a bad day was because I didn’t have a prayer time.” Or, “God is happy with me when I have my devotions but disappointed with me when I don’t.”

Watch out for the creepers.

Step Nine: Don’t let past failures keep you from trying again.

It wasn’t until about halfway through my pastoral career that I got serious about soul-care and spiritual formation. Before that, my spiritual life was on and off, hot and cold. I’d hear some sermon or read some book about prayer, feel guilty, make a commitment to prayer, go a few days…and then quit. Some time would go by, I’d once again hear some sermon or read some book about prayer, feel guilty, make a commitment to prayer, go a few days…and then quit, again.

Does that sound familiar?

I never really struggled with reading my Bible every day, but prayer? That was entirely different. At that time in my spiritual journey, practices like meditation and journaling weren’t even on my radar screen. That was about to change.


The above article is an excerpt from my book: Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Experiencing God Beyond the Shallows, Soul Care For Busy Pastors and the Rest of Us. Find your copy here.