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Pray before meeting

Butin to Big Tent: seek balance in thinking, praying, living the faith

August 23, 2013

LOUISVILLE

What is the secret of a balanced Christian life?

To answer this question, the Rev. Philip W. Butin, co-pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Fayetteville, AR, and a former president of San Francisco Theological Seminary, gave about 50 participants in his Big Tent workshop Aug. 3 a crash course on Scripture, theology, and church history.

Along the way, Butin pointed out examples of what he called “A Triad for Wholeness.” Individual Christians, as well as congregations and denominations, Butin said, find wholeness by maintaining a balance among the three elements in the triad: thinking, praying, and living the faith.

The threefold emphasis dates back to the triad of teaching tools used by the early church, Butin said. New converts were instructed to think the faith using the Apostles’ Creed. They learned to pray the Lord’s Prayer and to live in obedience to the Ten Commandments.

Today, however, living and thinking the faith crowd out prayer in many Presbyterian congregations, Butin observed. “There’s an imbalance between worship and meetings.”

One workshop participant, a pastor, said she restores the balance in her life by scheduling “spiritual formation days.” This allows her to visit a retreat center, walk a labyrinth, or engage in some other prayerful activity.

Butin suggested opening all session and committee meetings with devotions. “Have each committee ask, ‘Where do you see Christ at work?’”

Amazingly, Butin added, “The more we weave this listening-to-God process into meetings, the shorter they are.” People stop wasting time on power plays and pushing their own agendas.

“If prayer can become woven in in an integral way,” Butin said, “it opens you to hear the will of God.”

Big Tent, Aug. 1–3, was a celebration of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission and ministry organized around the theme “Putting God’s First Things First.” It was composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.

Butin’s workshop on “Thinking, Praying, and Living the Faith” was part of the Theology, Worship and Education Conference at Big Tent.

Eva Stimson is a free-lance writer and editor and former editor of "Presbyterians Today" magazine.

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