Why I’m Allergic to Devotionals

At the risk of overstating the case; it sometimes feels as though we get the Christian content out of the way and then our meetings default to an essentially secular way of functioning.

In my world, business meetings tend to follow a similar pattern; the very first item on the agenda is the devotional. There will be a Bible study and a time of prayer and if time allows (and the group is big enough) there may even be a bit of singing. Once the devotional is out of the way, the day’s business proper begins.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I’ve nothing against Bible studies or prayer and despite having a voice like a frog with a sore throat, I think that singing is a good thing, too. However, the concept of the devotional at the start of the meeting does bother me.

Let me explain.

The problem is not what we do during the devotional time, it is that we end up drawing an artificial distinction between the spiritual aspect of our work and the everyday business that we have to deal with. All too often, once the devotional is out of the way, the meeting makes no reference to the things that were raised during the time of prayer and meditation. I recall one meeting where we started with an excellent devotional talk on the subject of listening to God; at no point in the ensuing meeting did we actually consider what listening to God might mean for the business of the day.

At the risk of overstating the case; it sometimes feels as though we get the Christian content out of the way and then our meetings default to an essentially secular way of functioning.

Yesterday, I highlighted the way in which Tim Chester looked at a common problem in contemporary mission work through the lens of Scripture, rather than through management theory or strategic planning. I believe that one of the reasons that we find it difficult to follow Tim’s example is that our management and business meetings tend to have the devotional-business divide. We’ve not learned how to meditate on Scripture as part of our approach to work problems.

I’m not exactly sure how we change things, but I would love to see business meetings that had a much more integrated approach to spiritual life and business life.

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3 replies on “Why I’m Allergic to Devotionals”

Rather than struggle on with an intractable problem, what about stopping to pray (however briefly) about it before deferring action. That one step means that ongoing private deliberation starts from a positive rather than a negative base.

That’s a shame. One of the things I loved about working in INF Nepal was that the governance & management meetings not only started with prayer, but would be regularly punctuated with prayer. Whoever is chairing the business of the meeting should reflect back the subject of the devotion at relevant points in the agenda.

Each year we had an INF Council retreat, and things which we felt that we heard from the Lord in that day became part of the agenda, with someone specifically holding us to account for progress against them during the following few (quarterly) meetings. Similarly, the same council member “minuted” what was spoken out during the ‘devotions’ at the start of annual members meetings, and we considered whether those things were actually ‘words from the Lord’.

I’m not saying INF was perfect, but this was always one of its great aspects to me. We began a similar approach among the UK trustees too.

‘I hear you brother’ and what you wrote makes total and perfect sense. Praying this pebble dropped into the lake will not just sink but will create some fantastic ripples! Bless you.

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