When the pastor needs pastoring

Acts 27:33-36

Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.’ After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.

From 1983 to 1985, I ran a day center for the homeless in Trenton, New Jersey, a place very much like our IRC in Downtown Greensboro.

It was quite a unique group of people – mentally ill, drug addicts, alcoholics still in denial, impoverished artists, and some radical middle-class Christians disillusioned with the traditional church. On Wednesday mornings, I would come in very early and make hard-boiled eggs and grits for about 30 men. Then we would have a Bible study.

At one point, I had an enlarged lymph gland in my neck, and the doctor treated it with a massive dose of penicillin. I had a very bad allergic reaction, but somehow I managed to get to the day center intending to make the eggs and grits. I could barely walk. My face was hideous.

The homeless guys were waiting in the dark ready to get in and get warm. Then they saw me, and immediately knew I was in trouble and took pity on me.

I don’t remember exactly what happened next. I suppose they insisted I sit down and take it easy while they made the breakfast. Perhaps one of them took the lead in the Bible study. They pastored the pastor, showing me hospitality and kindness in my infirmity. They took food for themselves, and we were all encouraged.
– Neil Dunnavant, executive pastor

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Summer DevotionalWe'll post a new devotional each Monday, and you can find previous weeks' posts here.

Printed versions of the devotional book are in the Welcome Center or here as a pdf.

Instructions for
Spiritual Practices

BREATH PRAYER: Choose a phrase from scripture, a prayer, or a song and begin prayerfully repeating the phrase. You can begin aloud and continue repeating in silence. When your mind begins to wander, come back to the phrase and repeat it again, letting it turn your heart towards God.

CENTERING PRAYER: Sit quietly and spend some time becoming aware of your breathing. Select a word or image that helps you focus on God. Use this word to help you stay focused in the present moment. Return to it as needed while you sit silently for 15-20 minutes.

DAILY EXAMEN: Take time at the end of your day to prayerfully examine your life before God. Think back and consider what you are grateful for today and thank God for those experiences. Consider the times when you may not have responded in love and ask God’s grace and forgiveness for those times. Evaluate how God has been present throughout your day and how you have responded.

LECTIO DIVINA (DIVINE OR SACRED READING): First, select a short passage of scripture to read slowly and prayerfully. Watch for a word or phrase that draws your attention. Second, read the passage again and reflect or meditate on the word or phrase that drew your attention. Third, after having listened, form a prayer or response to God that expresses your thoughts or feelings about the phrase. Fourth, rest or contemplate God’s presence with you and what God might be asking you to live out.

SABBATH: Set aside a time and a place to focus on God. A day is wonderful; however, an hour is also a great start. Allow yourself time to do nothing but dwell in God’s holy presence. Cease any work and rest in God.

SERVICE: Stay alert to people and their needs. Learn to see God by opening your eyes to ways of serving others through caring acts. Learn to hear God by actively listening to both the suffering and joy of others.

FORGIVENESS: Self-examination allows us the ability to make peace with ourselves and therefore with others. Let God help you see your weaknesses and come to terms with the human condition of sin in your life so that you may more clearly identify with the brokenness of others.

HOSPITALITY: Traditional forms of hospitality from host to guest are expressions of love that might involve food and drink, shelter and rest, protection and care, enjoyment and peace.

JOURNALING: Spend time writing down your thoughts, feelings, questions, insights, and prayers. Reflect on them as you write. Use this written record to track your spiritual growth and integrate your life experiences with deepening faith.

About this series

Our summer devotional is a series of 15 scripture passages and reflections on nine spiritual practices. We hope that you will use these devotions to grow closer to God by practicing.