Walking as a Spiritual Discipline: An Interview with Mark Buchanan
What happens when we literally walk out our Christian life? What does our physical being have to do with our spiritual life? What does the Bible actually mean when it exhorts us to walk in the light, or walk by faith, or walk in truth? How did Jesus model walking as spiritual formation?
Why do you say, “Three miles an hour seems to be the pace God keeps”?
Mark Buchanan: The phrase comes from a delightful, if somewhat quirky, little book titled Three Mile an Hour God, by the Japanese theologian and missiologist Kosuke Koyama. Three miles an hour is roughly the speed of walking. Koyama’s claim is that God moves at this speed, but we often miss him because we’re in too great a rush. Ironically, if we’re going to catch up with God, we need to slow down.
Why did you write this book?
Mark Buchanan: Two big impulses lie behind God Walk.
The first was frustration. My faith seemed disembodied, not worked out in flesh and bone and breath, a thing mostly in my head, rendered as doctrinal tenets rather than a living and life-giving experience. And I noticed that many other Christians were struggling similarly with the gap between professed faith and lived faith. Virtually every major faith has a corresponding physical discipline—think of Hinduism and yoga.
Christianity, the world’s most incarnational faith, has nothing. Except—and this is the argument of my book—it has walking. It’s always had walking. I wrote the book to recover, for myself and others, that ancient way of embodiment.
The second impulse was fascination. I’m 60, and have walked 59 of those years. I walk a lot (especially now—writing this book has given me fresh impetus to walk). But rarely did I think much about it. Yet the deeper I got into researching and writing God Walk, the more amazed I became at the physical, relational, mental, and spiritually benefits of this simple, often necessary, practice. Walking is one of the best gifts God gave us.
How does the Bible encourage Christians to walk, both figuratively and literally?
Mark Buchanan: The Bible, end to end, uses the image of walking in both a literal and figurative sense to explore the forming and outworking of faith. God walked, presumably with Adam and Eve, in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day. Enoch walked with God. Noah walked with God. The prophet Micah says that the three things God requires of us is to love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly with God. In the New Testament, particularly in the writings of John and Paul, walking is a key image to describe living out our faith. And then, above all, the gospel writers (especially Mark) depict Jesus as a constant walker, always inviting others to “Come, follow me.”
Summarize the points in your chapter, “Walking as Prayer.”
Mark Buchanan: In the first half of the chapter, I confess my own struggles with prayer, especially prayer engaged from a sitting position: that for me is an invitation to either distraction or drowsiness. But my praying roars to life when I walk. Both praying and walking are about paying attention, within and without, and so praying and walking are good companions.
The second half of the chapter is about intentional prayer walking. I look at how I and a few others in the church I used to pastor became present to our neighbors and to one another by walking and praying together in and for our community.
Briefly unpack the message of your chapter, “Walking as Exorcism.”
Mark Buchanan: This is my favorite chapter. In sum, some of our struggles are not against flesh and blood but have spiritual roots, spiritual forces at work within them. Some of our anger, or fear, or lust, or sadness, is so entrenched in us that “this kind can only come out by prayer.” In this chapter I explore some of these deep-rooted things—especially, I tell a personal story about my own struggle with “diabolical” anger—and how “walking it out” is one way we resist the devil.
Why do you conclude the book by referencing The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan?
Mark Buchanan: Next to Scripture, Bunyan’s classic has probably more than any other book influenced Protestant Christianity’s sense of the Christian life—that it’s a journey, a pilgrimage, on foot, one step at a time, toward a destination. Along the way we face struggles and perils and distractions and setbacks, and boons and blessings and provisions. There are friends and enemies, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. Reminding readers of all this seemed the best place to end God Walk. Plus that book seemed to sum up much of what I explore in my book.
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What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Mark Buchanan: Matthew 6:33—“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” I was given that as my life verse on the day I was baptized, age 21. It has brought and keeps bringing me back to a simplicity of devotion to Christ and his kingdom. It centers me, lifts me, directs me.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Mark Buchanan: I love it all. It’s the only Bible site and app I use. Recently, I spent a day listening on the Bible Audio App to multiple versions of Hebrews 11, the chapter on faith. I experienced, in real time, with all these voices moving around and through me, the “great cloud of witnesses” described in that chapter. It breathed new breath into me. It gave me fresh faith. So thank you.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Mark Buchanan: Yes. Keep walking.
God Walk is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Mark Buchanan is a professor and award-winning author. He and his wife, Cheryl, live in Cochrane, Alberta. He is the author of eight books, including Your Church Is Too Safe, Hidden in Plain Sight, and Spiritual Rhythm.
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The post Walking as a Spiritual Discipline: An Interview with Mark Buchanan appeared first on Bible Gateway Blog.
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