Our Mission Begins in Silence

May 1, 2024 by István Csernák

I enjoy silence. I love taking in the calmness and the smell of woods and water and listening to the singing of birds. I like to work at my desk and to pray, read, and meditate on the Bible. These activities, done in silence, fill me up for my tasks and ministry. And they make me think of a memorable experience in which silence played an important role. 

Several years ago, I attended a training event for Methodist pastors. The speaker gave an interesting lecture, but it was his closing prayer that has remained vividly with me. He began his prayer with a long silence. At first, I perceived a kind of confusion and restlessness in the room. But then an intense, silent prayer was born. It lasted for several minutes and turned out to be a very blessed time, surrounded by the Holy Spirit and silence. We were experiencing many changes in Hungarian society at the time and had many struggles, tasks, and mission opportunities ahead of us. We needed that time of silence and encouragement and the reminder that the Holy Spirit accompanies us in our ministries. 

That event reminds me of Pentecost. The disciples had experienced the distress of crucifixion, the inexpressible joy of resurrection, and the guiding instructions and promises of the risen Christ. Acts 1:14 says, “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (NIV). The word constantly here expresses the situation well: the disciples and others were faithful and persistent in their waiting as they prayed. Another important word in this verse is together, which signifies joining with one heart and spirit, being in full agreement, and finding a common mind and will. I imagine the disciples spending time in silence as they prayed together. 

The disciples surely needed this kind of faithful persistence and unity. I also imagine them needing silence before the Day of Pentecost with its blowing wind and tongues of fire (see Acts 2:1-4). And then with the preaching of Peter, they began the ministry that was entrusted to them by Christ and prepared for them by the Holy Spirit. It was no small task that Christ had given them: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 

Thinking about how the disciples must have felt receiving that call to ministry, I recall how in the early 1990s in Hungary, following the Communist era, Methodist pastors and congregations also faced many unexpected situations as well as opportunities for mission and social work. Alone we would have accomplished nothing. However, with the Spirit that we received in unity and prayerful silence during that training event, we ultimately experienced many blessings. 

Now more than ever we all need to spend time in silence as we listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and prepare to go out into the world to share the gospel. During the season of Pentecost, let us quiet ourselves and wait with open hearts for the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives, in our congregations, and in the worldwide church as we seek renewed enthusiasm for our mission as disciples of Jesus Christ.

Questions for Reflection:

1. What experiences do you have of personal and community silence? Is spending time in silence easy or challenging for you? Why?
2. When has silence helped you prepare for something? What did this teach you about the importance of silence?
3. How could we be more unified in our church communities and world today? What obstacles to unity do you observe? What new opportunities could unity create?

— István Csernák, retired pastor, The United Methodist Church in Hungary

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