The Ministry of Mindfulness

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

We hosted our final REST service of the year last Wednesday.

We started REST at HERITAGE last September as part of an intentional effort to engage our church in a season of prayer. REST is a mid-week prayer and communion service designed to provide a few moments of quiet reflection in the middle of a busy week. 

We met weekly through the fall. And in the new year, we’ve met monthly on the first Wednesday of each month.

As we wind up REST for the year and break for summer, I thought I’d tell you how I’ve experienced it.

At first, REST was jarring. The interruption of quiet and stillness with no phones, no conversation, no motion, and no activity was jarring.

As I sat down to REST each Wednesday with the lights dimmed, our prayer guide in front of me and our musicians playing softly in the background, I would take a few deep breaths and even close my eyes. Conditions should have been perfect for prayer and meditation.

But at first, despite the setting, it was hard to get my mind to be quiet. To slow down. To really REST.

Somewhere along the way, though, in the middle of the jarringness, REST became deeply meaningful to me. The quiet moments of reflection that I longed for finally appeared. The comforting assurance of God’s presence finally broke through.

But what became most meaningful to me was the way I came to feel the presence of my fellow church members around me.

The idea that REST was something we were doing together—the same faithful Christians gathering in holy rhythm each Wednesday—became profoundly meaningful to me as the weeks went by.

When we seek the same silence together; listen for the same God together; approach the same table together; partake of the same bread together; and drink from the same cup together, week after week, month after month, season after season—these things start to form us—together—into the body of Christ, the church.

We say we’re a church that embraces being holy, healthy and whole. When we sit together on Wednesday evenings, our hearts and minds seeking some sort of synchronicity, seeking a shared experience of God’s presence in the moment, it doesn’t get much more holy, healthy and whole than that.

I’ll admit, too, that we’ve gathered for REST some Wednesdays when I would rather have been somewhere else—when I was antsy and distracted, or tired, or bored, or disinterested, or worried, or angry, or sad—when I’ve let whatever else was going on inside me get in the way of really resting.

But even on those Wednesdays, I’m glad I was there. If I didn’t REST, at least I acknowledged my distractedness or tiredness or antsyness.

As it turns out, we’re not the only ones seeking REST. Mindfulness and meditation have become important cultural touchstones as people from corporate boardrooms to inner-city schools embrace the need to slow down, focus, and be present to our feelings and emotions.

And, as one of our church members reminded me, there’s always an app for that. Insight Timer and 10 Percent Happier both let people use their phones to set aside a few minutes in the day to slow down.

Maybe you could try one of them. As we take a break from REST, you don’t have to take a break from intentionally seeking to connect with God’s presence within you.

I’ve enjoyed the routine of REST, and this season of intentional prayer has been important for our church. REST, though, will probably look different in the fall.

As we look forward to what REST will become, I’m grateful for what it’s been. One of Jesus’ most memorable invitations is one we continue to be in desperate need of—

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST.”

See you Sunday.