Good grief this fall is busy!
Is anyone else tired?
And, we’re barely into the ministry season.
Maybe it’s the combination of ministry and leadership plus all that’s going on with my kids getting older, playing more sports and being involved with more at school, but this season feels a little crazy to me.
Earlier this week, I had lunch with a good friend, who is also a pastor in my city, and we were talking about the busyness of life.
We were laughing about all the nonsense that comes with soccer, football, cross-country, homework, tired kids, quirky volunteers at church, and all the people that show up for a weekend service the weekend after Labor Day.
Then, he asked me a question.
So, how are you doing? I mean, how’s your relationship with Jesus?
The question caught me off-guard because I don’t often get asked this question.
I’m constantly on the stage asking other people creatively worded versions of this question, but rarely anyone asks their pastor this question. I think people often assume that their pastors are just crushing it in their relationship with Jesus...yeah, about that.
Can we talk about staying spiritually alive during this ministry season?
The church needs us to be healthy.
Your church needs you to have a vibrant relationship with Jesus.
It’s ok if that’s not how you would describe your spiritual life right now, but it’s not ok to stay in that place.
Let’s talk about three pursuits that will help grow our faith this season.
1. Vulnerability Instead of Polish
Look, I’m not telling you to take the stage this weekend and tell your entire congregation that you’ve been living in a spiritual desert for the last month.
Appropriate vulnerability is a thing! However, without places to be vulnerable, you will not grow.
Being real about what’s actually going on in your mind and heart is paramount. There can be no growth without it.
So, where are you vulnerable? Who gets to hear from the real you?
For me, it’s my small group.
I am privileged to be part of a small group that’s very real.
What makes it work for me is that nothing I say in that group can be held against me in terms of my pastoral career.
All I’m saying is that if you are a leader in your church, your place for vulnerability and also accountability probably can’t be part of your church’s small group system. How can you ever be real?
If you don’t have a group like mine, I might suggest starting with a counselor or perhaps a small group of pastors from other churches. But, please find something.
You need a space where you don’t have to be polished and have all the answers. Please remember that you are just a normal human like the rest of us who happens to have a specific gifting and calling and the combination of these two can be very lonely space.
2. Rest not Productivity
The second pursuit we need to stay healthy is a life-rhythm that includes times of rest and times that strategically neglect productivity. You have to turn the productivity motor off.
Look. I know. I’m wired the same way as you. My sabbath day always starts with the same feeling...guilt.
“Ah. I should be getting something done. I’m wasting time. It’s 7:00 and I haven’t showered. What a loser!”
If you’re like me, there is this voice in my head that tells me that unless I am producing then I have no value.
It’s taken me way too long to recognize that this voice is a liar. I’m convinced that it’s the voice of the enemy, seeking to drain my energy reserves to the point that I become dangerous.
If you desire to be spiritually healthy this season, you must choose a rhythm of rest over productivity.
I tackle this in three ways:
You just gotta have this. Maybe you’re thinking, “Pastors and church leaders don’t get sabbath.”
Well, the ones who thrive over the long-haul do.
For me, sabbath is Friday. This means putting my unfinished sermon on the shelf until Saturday.
This doesn’t mean exchanging one to-do list for another. It means chillaxing.
It means doing what gives me life and refills my energy reserves: running, biking, multiple naps, reading, watching a good show and going on a date with my wife.
For you it will probably look different, but a weekly sabbath day is critical.
Next month I’m taking my 13-year-old son to the new Star Wars park at Disney.
It’s a road trip, cheap as possible, but we’re going for it! This past summer, my family took advantage of a free cottage in northern Michigan. It was wonderful.
These scheduled vacations recharge me and also empower me to invest in my kids. I’m banking on the memories we create together on these trips to sustain our relationships through tougher times ahead.
Later this month, I’m spending a week at a gifted cottage, studying for upcoming sermons.
Yes, I’ll be working and very focused but there is something very refreshing about a cottage, a lake...and no staff meetings. Amen.
Here’s my point: There are ways to do your work that bring variety, freedom, fun, and even joy. Build these into your work rhythm.
Do fun staff retreats. Take study breaks. Go to conferences.
You need rest to be healthy.
3. Relationship not Performance
One last idea. If we are going to stay spiritually healthy, we need to pursue relationship instead of performance.
Maybe you and I are different, but for me, performance is everything. Unfortunately, it’s how the fallen version of myself determines value.
I’m just being honest. This is where my heart goes when I’m not vigilant. The trouble is that these fallen feelings and questions bleed into my relationship with God.
How often do we fall into doing things for Jesus? Something I need to be constantly reminded of: Jesus never asked me to do anything for Him.
Literally zero of my relationship with Jesus is about my performance.
At least, it’s not supposed to be. Unfortunately, I have this tendency to think it is and I’m guessing I’m not alone.
If we want to be spiritually healthy during this ministry season, we have to remember that it’s never for Jesus.
It’s always with Jesus.
He invites us to participate with Him. He’s the One moving in the hearts of our people.
The results are never about us. Our value and worth don’t come from accomplishments or opinions.
I hope this thought is freeing. I hope it serves to remind you that God gifted you.
He called you. He’s working through you. He invites you to join him. It’s always with Jesus and never for Jesus.
Let’s pursue health this fall. Let’s work hard and be focused but let’s pursue vulnerability, rest and relationship in the right places.
Our churches need us to be healthy.