Hearts, Heads, and Hands- Module 9: Silence and Solitude, Worship Leadership

Hearts, Heads, and Hands- Module 9: Silence and Solitude, Worship Leadership

by M. David Sills



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781433647000
Publisher: B&H Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/01/2018
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.64(d)
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

M. David Sills (DMiss, PhD; Reformed Theological Seminary) is A. P. and Faye Stone Professor of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also president of Reaching & Teaching International Ministries, which serves people around the world through evangelism, discipleship, pastoral preparation, leadership training and theological education.

Sills previously served long-term as a missionary in Ecuador. While with the International Mission Board, he served as a church planter and general evangelist among the Highland Quichua people in the Andes and as a seminary professor at the Ecuadorian Baptist Theological Seminary. He also served as rector and professor of the Baptist seminary as a missionary with Global Outreach International. He has planted and pastored churches in both the United States and Ecuador. Sills has written several books and articles in both English and Spanish, including The Missionary Call: Find Your Place in God's Plan for the World, which has been translated into Spanish, Korean and Indonesian, Reaching and Teaching: A Call to Great Commission Obedience, and Reaching and Teaching the Highland Quichuas.

His Spanish books include Capacitación Cultural en la Cultura Quichua and Quichuas de la Sierra. In addition, he has also coauthored or contributed to several books such as Introduction to Global Missions and Introducción a la Misiología. A frequent speaker at conferences internationally, Sills has spoken for the Desiring God National Conference, Urbana Missions Conference, To Every Tribe, Master's College and the Cross Conference. He and his wife Mary have been married for over thirty years and have two grown children and four grandchildren.

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Silence and Solitude, Self-control, Peace Worship Leadership Church Discipline


This module prepares pastors and leaders to practice silence and solitude, to lead their churches in the biblical worship of God, and to follow the steps for maintaining a pure church membership according to New Testament teaching and practice.

The biblical practices of silence and solitude provide the best contexts for practicing the personal spiritual disciplines we have studied. Such a statement may sound counterintuitive considering that some of the disciplines are impossible to practice silent and alone, such as the disciplines of serving and evangelism. Yet silence and solitude provide the time and space to pray and prepare so that we practice each of them better.

The world moves at such speed that many of us race through the day completing tasks on our to-do lists or dealing with problems that pop up out of sheer habit and routine. We barely have time to think about what we are doing or the way we do it. A growing field of study and a popular subject in business and lifestyle writing is "mindfulness," which means focusing on being conscious of what is going on around you and the ways you are acting, interacting, and reacting. While many do not really practice mindfulness for spiritual benefit, it results in people taking advantage of silence and solitude to intentionally think about what is important in their lives. For Christians, we practice silence and solitude as spiritual disciplines, adding components such as prayer, meditation, reflection, and communion with God into our practice of this ancient biblical discipline.

Pastors are the primary worship leaders in their churches. This is certainly true in churches where the pastor is the only staff member. Larger churches may have several pastors with one of them serving as worship pastor who takes the lead in preparing each Sunday's order of worship and guiding the service. The worship services in many other churches may be led by a committed layperson in the congregation. A biblical theology of worship teaches that there is much more involved in worship leadership than simply making announcements, praying, singing three hymns, taking up the offering, hearing a sermon, and closing the service with an invitation. Additionally, worship is not merely the music portion of the service with preaching to follow. The head portion of this module helps pastors and leaders to understand and practice worship leadership that is honoring to God and leads His people to worship in each gathering.

You studied the basics of biblical church membership in the ecclesiology portion of module 6, and some review will refresh your memory of the biblical guidelines for practicing church discipline in obedience to Christ's teaching. When a local church becomes aware that one of its members prefers to continue a lifestyle of sin and resists all calls to repent, reconcile, and return, Jesus makes very clear what they are to do. In such a case, the person is giving apparent evidence that he or she is an unbeliever and as such should not be a member of the church.

Perhaps the person is actually a true believer but has by degrees grown cold through sin and should be called to repentance. The judgment of whether the person is regenerate or not must be decided by God since He alone knows the heart, but the responsibility to confront such a person is laid upon the church. The practical ministry portion of this module seeks to prepare leaders to address members who fall into such sin and refuse to repent. The fervent desire of any church when practicing church discipline is the repentance, reconciliation, and restoration of the sinner.

The Heart: Silence and Solitude, Self-control, Peace

John Bunyan's classic allegory entitled Pilgrim's Progress describes the journey of Christian on his way to the Celestial City. Bunyan portrays the path that we all must walk and warns us of dangers we will face along the way. One goal of each of these student modules is to help you grow in sanctification and discipleship as you walk your own journey Home. Not surprisingly, there is an applicable passage for each aspect of the heart formation as you grow. It is my prayer that these short snippets from Pilgrim's Progress will spark your interest and spur you on to read it in its entirety. Throughout the book it is clear that Christian benefited greatly when blessed with godly company, meditated on God's Word to encourage himself when alone, and sadly suffered when accompanied by foolish fellow travelers. In the following passage, he recounts to a helpful companion how he suffered from a poor one.

GOOD-WILL. But did none of them follow you, to persuade you to go back?

CHRISTIAN. Yes, both Obstinate and Pliable; but when they saw that they could not prevail, Obstinate went railing back, but Pliable came with me a little way.

GOOD-WILL. But why did he not come through?

CHRISTIAN. We, indeed, came both together, until we came at the Slough of Despond, into the which we also suddenly fell. And then was my neighbour, Pliable, discouraged, and would not adventure further. Wherefore getting out again on that side next to his own house, he told me I should possess the brave country alone for him; so he went his way, and I came mine — he after Obstinate, and I to this gate.

Personal Spiritual Discipline: Silence and Solitude

The practice of silence and solitude is not so much a spiritual discipline as it provides a context in which the disciplines may be practiced. Rob Plummer argues that these are not truly spiritual disciplines but acknowledges that some believe them to be and agrees that they provide fertile ground for nurturing them in one's life. Plummer defines what he means by the term spiritual disciplines as "the spiritual practices that Scripture expects of God's people." Donald Whitney defines the practices of silence and solitude as spiritual disciplines to practice. "The Discipline of silence is the voluntary and temporary abstention from speaking so that certain spiritual goals might be sought. ... Solitude is the Spiritual Discipline of voluntary and temporarily withdrawing to privacy for spiritual purposes." Whether we consider these two practices to be biblically commanded as individual practices expected in the Christian life or not, discipline is required to practice them, and they are both beneficial for growing in godliness. In the very practice of them, we also nurture a context for developing the other disciplines and hearing from Him more profoundly.

These two disciplines appear together very often because they both refer to intentionally withdrawing from society and noise to be alone with God and commune with Him alone. It is certainly true that the practice of silence and solitude is necessary to be alone with your thoughts and to be able to know what you think rather than what is being shouted in your ears by others. A. W. Tozer said, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." Sometimes we have to be alone and quiet so that we can know what that is. Indeed, it is necessary to withdraw from the presence of others and to shut our mouths sometimes so that we may open our ears to the thoughts that are reverberating in our own minds. In Pensées, Blaise Pascal said, "All the troubles of life come upon us because we refuse to sit quietly for a while each day in our rooms." But more is needed than just being away from the noise of ourselves and others; we must practice the presence of God. Although we can never be away from God's presence (Ps. 139:7–10), we often allow crowds and commotion to push our conscious awareness of Him to a corner. The discipline of intentionally isolating and insulating ourselves from others wonderfully creates a space and enables our spirit to commune with His. There we may hear that still small voice that was so hard to hear in the tumult of the crowd, noise, and hurry of this world.

It would be ideal to be able to practice this discipline in a pastoral setting of the countryside, in the natural beauty of the deep woods, or sitting in the sunshine by a trickling stream, but, when necessary, silence and solitude may be practiced even in a crowd. I have often practiced this discipline when traveling alone. I may be in an airport terminal or on a crowded street with hundreds of others hustling and bustling around me, but I am in prayer to the Lord, remembering His promises and practicing His presence. This is one of the reasons that I love to fly-fish. I love the outdoors, catching fish and eating them, but more than anything I have discovered that this is a way to recharge my spiritual batteries. This sort of fishing of course requires being in nature, and though others may have come on the trip with you, fly-fishing is best practiced as a solitary activity. Your own outlet for solitude and silence may not be fly- fishing. Some people go for walks, watch sunrises or sunsets, sit at home alone, or practice this discipline when exercising or running. I have run alone for decades for this very reason, but the effort, pounding of my feet, occasional chases from barking dogs, and watching for traffic have often distracted me more than was ideal. Standing knee-deep in a stream, slowly casting a fly to land in the running water on a beautiful day may be one of the most spiritual experiences I could have all week. Try to identify your own outlets for this discipline that can be for you what fly-fishing is for me.

One of the reasons that silence and solitude must be intentionally practiced as "disciplines" is that we do not typically prefer either. Many people use headphones to avoid silence or keep a radio or television playing even when they are not really paying attention just to have the background noise. Radio announcers refer to glitches in programming or times when problems with equipment results in silence as "dead-air time." They stress that dead-air time is a thing to be avoided at all costs, even if an announcer must ad-lib and expound upon topics unplanned and unprepared. Some people find their anxiety rising when there is silence. Others are fearful of being alone. To intentionally plan and practice both silence and solitude forces many people outside of their comfort zone. That is reason enough to practice them; we need to distance ourselves from man-made comfort zones and exchange them for the presence and voice of God. Distractions tend to hinder our fellowship with God.

Whitney points out that Jesus also practiced the disciplines of silence and solitude, and of course He should be our model in living the Christian life. We can easily imagine the demands on Jesus' time for counsel, teaching, imparting wisdom, healing, exorcism, feeding the hungry, and simply for His company. He would sometimes withdraw from everyone and spend time with God alone (Matt. 4:1; 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42). Whitney rightly concluded, "To be more like Jesus we must discipline ourselves to find times of silence and solitude." Those who have embraced the wisdom of Jesus' teaching have personally experienced the benefits of silence and solitude. Missionary martyr, Jim Elliot, wrote of these disciplines' value and the devil's desire to keep us from them, "I think that the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds ... Satan is quite aware of the power of silence."

The challenge of seeking silence and solitude while living in human societies is that we are always speaking or being spoken to, surrounded by others, and we have grown to prefer living this way. I found as a pastor that someone always seemed to have my elbow wanting to introduce me to a friend, asking for prayer, seeking counsel, or offering the same to me. Although it was sometimes tiresome, when I left for the mission field, I found that I painfully missed that aspect of pastoring. I am sure that some of my sense of loss was the blow to my pride because no one seemed to care about my opinions anymore, and even if they had, without knowing the language, it would be a few years before I would have been able to help. Many of us like to converse with others in order to share wit and wisdom, ask and give opinions, feel a part of a community, or just to hear the sound of our own voices.

Silence and solitude are not normally sought because they elicit feelings of loneliness for most people. When someone loses a loved one with whom they had shared a home, the silence can be deafening. Most people prefer the company of crowds and the volume of voices around them, perhaps because being in community feels "normal." Yet this is all the more reason why we must pull away occasionally; we need to spend time in communion with God alone.

In the head portion of this module, we will examine worship leadership and develop our abilities to prepare and lead in true worship. Silence in the worship services of most of our churches would be rare; it would usually be indicative that something is amiss. Yet, as a pastor I planned a time into our services for the congregation to seek God in a minute of silence. For some that moment of silence eventually became the most important part of the service. The silence was awkward to many when we first started the practice; it seemed out of place and uncomfortable. Yet before the pastoral prayer, or before partaking of the Lord's Supper, or at the culmination of the sermon, the moment of silence became a powerful component of our worship. Although they were in the presence of God and His people, our members were able to go to Him in personal private prayer and express the burdens of their hearts. Many of us need to be uncomfortable with silence long enough for silence to become companionable. We need to find comfort being with Him alone (Hab. 2:20; Zeph. 1:7; Zech. 2:13). I find in the Scriptures and in my own life that true worship often grows out of and leads back into silence in His presence.

Our silence before Him may begin by not knowing what to pray in some situations, where to start, or perhaps how to express pain and confusion or joy and praise that we feel. We look for the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts and prayers as He has promised to do. "In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings" (Rom. 8:26). Like David in Psalm 62, we simply wait on God in silence. That in itself is an act of patience, waiting on the One with whom we have to do, the One who reigns over every aspect of His universe, which of course includes the very challenges every one of us face.

We must learn to see the value of practicing the disciplines of silence and solitude and to think through ways that they can begin. Most of us would have trouble finding entire days or even blocks of hours to start practicing them. Perhaps the best way would be to take a shorter period of time in a day such as a lunch hour, a walk to the bus stop, sitting alone on a bus, or waiting for an appointment and intentionally practice these disciplines. There is peace that comes through intentional withdrawal from the tyranny of the urgent in their day, focusing on God's power and love, seeking forgiveness through Jesus Christ and the hope He gives to all who trust Him. Such concentration that silence and solitude provide can restore us in ways that no other method can — no plan, pill, pleasure, or person. The solitude and silence that you enjoy will nurture your souls, refresh your bodies, and clear your minds to enable sharper focus on everyday matters. God's design in creation calls for a day of rest; He made us for such respite and retreat. Jesus took His disciples aside for such a time when they were harassed and harried (Mark 6:31). He knew the importance of this discipline, practiced it, exhorted His disciples to practice it, and promises to be with you as you do.

A specific place for practicing silence and solitude with the Lord daily will help you to be faithful in it in your daily lives. A room, closet, or other designated spot where we regularly seek God in silence and solitude prepares the mind to know that this is the time and place for quiet and seeking God. Before we finished out the basement in our home, I used to go down early in the day before the family was awake and spend such time with God. When it was very cold — there was no heat down there — I would take a sleeping bag and get it in it and sit in a chair with my Bible on my lap and my coffee in my hand. It wonderfully concentrates the mind and calms the heart to begin each day in silence and solitude before Him.


Excerpted from "Hearts, Heads, and Hands - Module 9"
by .
Copyright © 2018 M. David Sills.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Module 9 Learning Objectives 17

Silence and Solitude, Self-control, Peace Worship Leadership Church Discipline 21

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