Today we’re sharing an excerpt from Kristi McLelland’s new study, The Gospel on the Ground. Order your copy or view a free sample at lifeway.com/gospelontheground.
In the book of Acts, the kingdom of togetherness was invading the empire of separation. Roman imperial cities like Corinth and Ephesus were being deeply impacted and transformed by the gospel message of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit living inside the followers of Jesus within their walls. High-ranking officials in the government of the Roman Empire were becoming followers of Jesus.
The kingdom was truly advancing like a mustard seed, just as Jesus said. The gospel was moving on the ground from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria, and unto the ends of the earth, just as Jesus said. Acts 1:8 was coming true chapter by chapter, verse by verse, story by story, one city at a time, and one life at a time.
We read these miraculous, amazing, extraordinary stories, and we ask ourselves, How shall we now live in light of this? I read these stories in the book of Acts and then I look at my own life, and it seems like they could not be more different. Paul was challenging the Artemis cult in Ephesus, and I spent today weeding my backyard, paying a few bills, returning phone calls, and answering emails. Nothing spectacular is going on here in my world. I’m pretty sure nothing about me is going to cause a gospel riot in my city today.
The book of Acts reads so extraordinarily. My life feels so ordinary. Acts reads like a movie in fast-forward. My life feels relatively slow-paced most days. So how do I apply the book of Acts to my life when it seems I don’t have much in common with Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila?
When we look closer, we find that we do share something significant with them. Our lives as followers of Jesus are similar to the lives they lived two thousand years ago in some very small yet powerful ways. Because of those similarities, we can see ourselves in them and live with hopeful expectancy that the living God is partnering with us in our own day and generation to bring restoration, renewal, and repair in the world. We are living out this continued story of the gospel moving on the ground, and we are collecting our own snapshots and stories of God’s presence, power, and ministry to the world through us.
What is the commonality between them and us?
They practiced daily spiritual hygiene.
And so do we.
Just as we take care of our bodies every day, we take care of our souls every day too. I learned the phrase “spiritual hygiene” while I was in seminary. One of my favorite textbooks was written by a man named Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. He wrote about spiritual hygiene and the small daily practices that lead to a robust, centered, and well-watered walk with Jesus.1
These are the small rhythms and practices that put us in God’s way and put us in others’ company in meaningful ways. Some of these practices are universal to followers of Jesus everywhere—Bible study, prayer, serving, and giving, for example.
But some are particular to each person. Some practices are things we do as individual expressions of shalom, wholeness, and delight with the living God and with others.
Three practices have become vital in my walk with Jesus. They are consistent and quiet. The presence of the living God in these things centers me, guides me, and funds my life to live as a gospel witness and a kingdom mustard seed in the earth. I’m going to share my practices with you, in the hopes that they’ll be an encouragement to spur you on in your own spiritual hygiene practices.
5:00 a.m. walks with Chester
I get up at 5:00 a.m. every morning and go on a walk with coffee and my dog, Chester. It is a silent walk—no music, no podcasts, no sermons, no nothing.
It’s just me, giving the firstfruits of my day to the living God. It is me walking with Him. I pray. I listen. I breathe. Somehow, when I return home, I know what I need to know regarding things in my life—decisions to be made, people to check on, things to do, and things to stop doing. My early morning walks with the Lord govern my life. I begin my day with Him. It is the genesis of my day, every day.
Memory and stories are both sacred. They matter. They matter more than we know. Memory is a gift that allows us to keep record of God’s faithfulness in our lives over time, over a lifetime. Journaling is my way of practicing sacred memory. I write, scribe, and record the stories of God’s faithfulness in my life. Every December, I take three days to read through the journal I’ve kept for that whole year. It allows me to get up above my life and view it from thirty-five thousand feet, almost like the view from the window of an airplane. It gives me perspective and vision as I prepare to head into the new year, the next year, and the next things.
The early church practiced coming to the table of welcome together just as Jesus had done so often during His earthly ministry. Eating together was the common, core practice for the early church. I believe strongly in table fellowship. I actually do believe that every time we eat together, we are practicing for the wedding supper of the Lamb. I am intentional to “break bread” with people in my life. It is my opportunity to inherit the saints living around me, to be curious about them, learn their stories, share my own stories, and experience the gift of friendship and community. It is one of my most intentional hygienic practices to care for my soul.
What about you?
What are some of your spiritual hygiene practices? This week, make a list, share them with others, and ask people in your life to share their practices with you.
Want to learn more about The Gospel on the Ground? Watch the short video below or view a free sample and teaching video clips at lifeway.com/gospelontheground.
We’re excited to announce that The Gospel on the Ground Bible Study Book includes continual access to all 7 of Kristi’s teaching sessions. You’ll simply redeem the unique access code printed in the back of your Bible study book to access the videos.
And here are some fun wallpapers for your desktop and phone! Click the images below to download!
1. Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995).