I recently returned from leading a Spiritual Formation Conference with a wonderful group of 19 ministers from all around Ghana, West Africa.
My good friend Fred Asare hosted the conference at the Village of Hope. It was a time of quiet reading, careful reflection and thoughtful discussion over a period of several days. Some of the men I already knew, but the openness and honesty of the whole group made this time one of the high points of my summer.
Early during our first day together I asked a question that I have often asked at Spiritual Formation retreats and seminars over the years. I had first heard this question at a small men’s breakfast when I lived in Kansas City. One of the brothers in our congregation gave a short devotional to a group of about 15-20 men on a Saturday morning, and he included this question. It so impacted me that I wrote it down and have shared it countless times over the years.
In it’s original form, the question goes like this:
What is the difference between a man with 10 years of experience and a man with 1 year of experience 10 times?
Of course, it can be restated and applied in a number of ways:
What is the difference between a Christian with 10 years of experience … ?
What is the difference between a Minister with 10 years of experience … ?
What is the difference between a Leader with 10 years of experience … ?
Every time I ask some version of this question the group I am with usually does the same kind of soul searching, and the group of ministers in Ghana followed the same pattern. As they thought through the “minister” version of the question, they realized that both ministers in this scenario had put in the same amount of time, and probably had gone through the same kind of experiences each year of the ten years. But the first minister found depth and growth from year to year while the second minister never moved and never changed. When I asked them “why” they realized that the first minister had a vision for each year’s growth. He followed some kind of plan and grew each year. The second minister had no vision and no plan. And so, he simply repeated his first year over and over.
This question set the stage for rest of our time as together we began with a vision from Jesus and then crafted a plan for personal growth.
It was clear to me that my brothers in Ghana do not want their inner life to simply remain static from year to year. They want movement, growth and change.
Stay tuned for part 2.