By Alysha Clark
In recent years evangelicals have started placing more emphasis on Christian rhythms and daily liturgies. We talk about securing the right balance between work and rest, forming daily habits as acts of worship or practicing spiritual disciplines. Another important rhythm is the back-and-forth of spending time alone and spending time with others as part of our Christian formation and spiritual growth. In fact, Brian J. Wright identifies this cycle of alone time and together time as the rhythm of the Christian life in his short book, The Rhythm of the Christian Life: Recapturing the Joy of Life Together (Leafwood Publishing, 2019). Drawing upon Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s 1939 classic Life Together, Wright argues that “the rhythm of the Christian life is a biblically based, centuries-old belief that time alone with God and time together with others are intimately connected and work in tandem to glorify God” (p. 21).
When we take the time and effort to spent time alone with God, we are better equipped to spend meaningful time in fellowship together—and vice versa.
This book is brief but compelling. After establishing the importance of rhythms and identifying their root in creation in chapter 1, Wright extrapolates a biblical theology of time together and time alone in chapters 2 and 3. In each chapter he provides biblical examples from both the Old and New Testaments of how people were in sync and out of sync with each part of the rhythm and then provides scriptural guidance for how our rhythms can be re-synced once again. Christians should spend time together with believers and non-believers, and Wright explains how those times should look different. He also clarifies that our time alone does reflect the importance of solitude, but ultimately our time alone is time alone with God. When we take the time and effort to spent time alone with God, we are better equipped to spend meaningful time in fellowship together—and vice versa. We need both.
After showing the beauty of the re-synced rhythm in chapter 4, Wright reiterates why the rhythm is important in chapter 5 and provides examples and guidance for how to put it in place. He emphasizes serving together, loving one another and studying God’s Word. Practical ways to create space for these goals include scheduling time in our calendars, scheduling mealtime fellowship, establishing routines, taking notes, reading Psalms and Proverbs daily, and finding alternate plans if the ones we have in place do not work.
Wright’s book is encouraging and convicting. The rhythm of the Christian life is simple—but it is also easy to abandon. His suggestions are helpful, and he makes a good case for the rhythm in Scripture. Identifying alone time/together time as the primary rhythm of the Christian life is debatable—the work/rest rhythm is more prominent from the beginning in the creation account and the law—but Jesus certainly embodied alone time/together time in his ministry. Some of the biblical examples in the book are excellent, but some seem to read the rhythm into the text more than what may be true in order to fit Wright’s argument (e.g., the Qumran community, Ananias and Sapphira, Martha, etc.). But even still, he provides a strong challenge to consider our lives and how aligning them with God’s rhythm will enable us to flourish and glorify God.