Monday, October 13, 2014

Margin for Unexpected Ministry

I'm trying to figure out the most effective way to give you a glimpse into my world today.  I always feel like full disclosure is the best approach even if it occasionally means my blogs come across a bit choppy.  Hopefully you agree.

First of all, I have been graced to be raised up as a church planter in what I believe to be one of the most exciting times of church planting in our nations history.  There is a focus on church planting like never before.  Part of that is because of the advancement of technology.  Everywhere I turn there's something new to learn, read, watch or study.  It's incredible.  There is a deep well of tools and seasoned experience from which to draw from... and it can all be a bit overwhelming.

One of the things I've been struggling with over the last 6 months to a year is what can be best referred to as "pulling the trigger."  It doesn't really matter what I need to pull the trigger on.  It could be a small project, creating the most efficient to-do list, deciding who God is calling me to invest my life, time and energy into, or coming up with a strategy for the next phase in the life of our church.  I get somewhat gun shy because I've read so many warnings, so many well-meaning planters and pastors sharing all the monumental mistakes they've made and so many experienced ministers telling me "exactly how to do this thing" or "exactly how not to do that thing."  The trouble is, more often than not the "tried and true" advice of one person contradicts the "tried and true" advice of the next.

The result?  I find myself over thinking everything and accomplish little to nothing.  Not a good place to find yourself when pursuing the glory of God and the advancement of his mission in this world.

All that being said, there is something that I have heard everywhere, over and over, in different forms, but conveying the same basic wisdom from more pastors, leaders and church planters than I can count.

What's their advice?  What's their challenge?

Retreat regularly.

Now that almost seems impossible for many of you.  How on earth can you retreat on a regular basis?  I believe many of us don't even know what a true retreat looks like.  We feel like wherever we go we have to have something to do.  We have to buy tickets, attend conferences, be entertained and we can't imagine escaping technology for even a few hours, much less a few days.

But for some reason, even in the relatively short time I've been in ministry, the advice has stuck with me.  Maybe it's because I have a great wife who gently (most of the time) reminds me that when I pour myself out without filling myself up I will eventually burn myself out.  Maybe it's because for every passionate and on fire pastor I meet I seem to meet 5 who are exhausted, overweight, bitter and burned out.  Maybe it's because I've seen too many church planters burn the candle at both ends so to speak at the cost of their marriage, family or just as seriously, their joy.

Or maybe, just maybe, this lesson has stayed with me by the grace of God.

Whatever the reason, retreating, by myself, every year is something I have made a habit of.  My bride is so amazing (most of you know that).  This year we were coming off a particularly stressful and hectic season and I just didn't feel like it was the right time to leave.  I told her I felt like I should cancel and she assured me that it was necessary for me to go... not just for me, not just for our family or our church... but for God to get the most glory out of what we are pursuing together as a family and a church.  She sent me on my way and I'm so thankful she did.

I could tell you so many things that God did in those couple of nights away.  He allowed me to read an incredible book called The Beginner's Guide to Spiritual Gifts by Sam Storms.  I highly recommend it.  He let me go for 2 runs... one on the beach.  He let me sleep the entire night through... twice!  He let me get healthy when I had been battling some pretty serious crud.  He let me pray.  He let me plan.  He let me dream, dream again and then dream bigger.  He let me write.  He let me read and meditate on his Word.  He granted me rest, peace, hope and joy.  It was a sweet time.

But of all those wonderful things, there is one thing he taught me that stands out above the rest.  It's not overly deep or profound, but it was an incredibly important message for me to hear.  It went something like this: SLOW DOWN STUPID! 

Such a simple message.  Such a truthful message.  I, like many of you I'm sure, tend to fill my plate too full.  I try to save the world all by myself (I'm pretty sure there's a King named Jesus who has that covered by the way).  I try to please everyone.  I hate to say "no" to anyone.  I like to have fun and do the things I enjoy, so I always make time for that.  I get up early, I stay up late and somehow in the midst of it all I figure out how to procrastinate.  I fall behind.  I try to catch up.  And before you know it I'm go 95 mph in 12 different directions spending the majority of my time on the things that matter the least.

What's the result?  There's probably too many to list, but in short, I don't have time for people who don't know Jesus.  I don't have time for divine appointments, for meeting needs, for praying for unexpected requests.  I just end up with no margin in my life.  And in reality, all the things I spend my time doing are farther from the heart of God than if I were just to make time to love a broken person.

So what am I going to do?  It's pretty crazy.  It's radical.  It's almost unimaginable.  I'm going to slow down!  Seriously.  I'm asking the Spirit of God to intervene in my life in a miraculous way.  I'm asking him to give me the courage to make time for people.  To trust him with the details, the to-do lists and the plans, and when there's a need... I want to meet it.  When there's a request... I want to pray for it.  When there's an unbeliever... I want to share Christ with them and when there's a brother or sister in Christ... I don't want to be too busy for them.

How is this possible you ask?  My best conclusion is... it's not! That is, it's not, apart from the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.  But thankfully, I have access to both of those.  And you do too, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone!

In summary... Make sure you have margin in your life for unexpected ministry! 

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