Posted in: Leadership
Solitude and Fellowship
By Mark Driscoll
Two sides exist with every spiritual discipline. A Pastor’s healthy relationship with God involves both being and doing. On one hand, there is a contemplative practice, and on the other, a corresponding active practice.
Subsequently, anyone who practices one aspect of a spiritual discipline without the other becomes increasingly immature and imbalanced in his or her walk with Jesus.
This is true for the two disciplines of Solitude and Fellowship. German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote,
“Only in fellowship do we learn to be rightly alone and only in aloneness do we learn to be rightly in fellowship.”
Solitude is fasting from people for a prescribed time to connect with God and replenish the soul. Solitude is not a punishment like that inflicted on prisoners, and it is not intended to be indefinite, as practiced by some extremist monks.
Instead, solitude is the recognition that just as we need time with those we love to build our relationship, we also need time with Jesus to build our relationship with Him. Like all relationships, this includes using the special times we get with Him to listen to Him as we read Scripture and speak to Him in prayer.
Despite the constant pressures family, friends, and fans placed on His time, Jesus’ own life was marked by ongoing times of solitude.
- Matthew 14:23, “After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone…”
- Mark 6:31, “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
- Luke 4:42, “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place.”
- Luke 5:16, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Jesus used solitude for a multitude of purposes.
- Preparing for public ministry (Matthew 4:1–11).
- To mourn (Matthew 14:12–13).
- For intense and focused prayer (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16).
- To rest after a hard day of work (Mark 6:31).
- To pray and seek the Father’s will (Luke 6:12).
- Accepting a calling (Mark 26:36–46)
Fellowship is living life together with Christian brothers and sisters as the church. The first thing the Bible says is “not good” is for us to be alone. Even God exists as the Trinitarian community of Father, Son, and Spirit. We are made in His image and likeness and are therefore made for loving community. It's a common myth that Christianity can be practiced in isolation. It is sin that separates people and it is Jesus who takes sin away so that we can have fellowship.
In addition to regularly taking times of solitude, we also see in Scripture that Jesus spent considerable amounts of time in community with others. In fact, Jesus spent most of His time in community with His disciples and frequently had dinner in the homes of the people He was befriending. Jesus seemed to have particularly close fellowship with the youngest disciple, John (John 13:23), the sisters Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus loved very much (John 11:5).
Jesus spoke of fellowship in community
- Mark 12:33 “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
- John 13:34–35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Through the spiritual discipline of solitude, we are reminded that our relationship with God is intensely personal. God called us to Himself alone, converted us alone, and one day we will die and stand before God alone.
Through the spiritual discipline of fellowship, we also see that we have been saved into the community of the church. We are reminded that on the final day when we rise from our graves, we will rise together to be with Jesus forever as a family with our spiritual brothers and sisters and our Father God.
A healthy pastor practices both solitude AND fellowship.
See full discussion of spiritual disciplines on The Resurgence website: