Our too busy lifestyle, but first a quick update!

     Just a few minutes ago, I got off a phone call from a great friend. He is the kind of friend that you could have not talked to in years, then find yourself right back in a great conversation which lights up your heart! I am very thankful for friends like that, which I am fortunate enough to have a couple of. We have not talked to each other in over a year, so we took our 25 minute call and squeezed a year's worth of life into that moment.

     Well, let me catch you up on the last few months and also challenge us in an area that is all too relevant to my life.

     As many of you know, I began the process of taking 18 classes in nine months to finish my degree. There have been times that I really wanted to quit. Being 42 is harder than being 22 when it comes to college and life. I have had times of great frustration with busyness (because of school and family needs) and with my lack of rest (oh how I love a good nap). But God is using this season to grow and mature both Michelle and I; as we walk through this intense time of learning, we realize that it is just a season. I made the Dean's List for the first time as a full time student; EVER! (Well, in high school I would have made this list if we had a dean's list and if I got a grade for sleeping in class.) I am in my second to last term and am working part time for The Urbancrest Resource Ministry as a warehouse hand. God is providing for our financial needs in a some really cool and really hard ways, in which one of those ways: I have been preaching at Northview Baptist in Hillsboro, OH in the middle of school, work and family; it has been incredibly busy which had made me focus even harder on my time schedule. My kids are growing and my wife is getting prettier by the day. Life is busy but I know this is the season I have been invited to by Jesus, so I am embracing this momentary busyness and learning to rest in it.

     However (and you knew there was going to be a however), I see a real problem with busyness. In the past, I have been abundantly guilty of being busy and thinking that was the normal Christian life. But is this really the way the Christian life is to be lived; from ministry moment to ministry moment, becoming so busy that relationships have to be put on the back burner to accomplish more for the Kingdom? NO and WE NEED TO STOP (okay I will quit yelling for a moment). See, while catching up with my friend, we both lamented about the false ministry idol of a busy life style. One that calls pastors to be in an office for 40-50 hours a week, visit people (adding more hours), train leadership (more hours), engage their local community (more hours), get involved with other pastors and churches (more hours), and be at their members' call when life falls apart (and it does, A-LOT). This doesn't just happen to pastors, it also happens to the people they are leading and I see a cycle that is dangerously destructive. Churches demand incredible leadership time from their pastor (in most cases rightfully so) but then the pastor in turn demands incredible amounts of serving time from their people, therefore a cycle of busyness begins. I know of guys serving churches part-time that are spending more time with ministry (50-70 hours) than they are with their families; PART_TIME. Hello, what the heck are we doing to each other when we demand that we spend so much time doing ministry that we think it is normal to overwork and ignore areas that need our attention?

     I was listening to a podcast about church planting the other day, in which they made this statement, "sometimes it is easier to preach about pornography in a church than it is to preach against over-working" (Hardcore Church Planting, 2016). Wow, have we become so busy that we feign at the thought of speaking against busyness? I think we do and we definitely don't like it when someone points it out, in-fact, I have heard Christians and Pastors call people lazy for not giving more time to ministry that they don't have (I was one of them). There is a huge problem and I believe this is rooted in consumerism and the lack of true biblical Christianity in the church.

     First, let me share how much I love the church but I see a true lack of biblical Christianity in the church, which I believe leads to consumerism, by asking a question of reality that shouldn't be for the church. Why is the Pareto Principle happening in the church, where 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people? Here are a few points that I have found in asking this question:

    • We don't integrate people with their talents and gifts but instead make them fit our paradigm 
    • We don't disciple and find out what people's gifts, talents and passions are
    • We don't disciple and lead our people to become busy workers in the Kingdom instead of resting and abiding in Christ allowing Jesus to lead them into ministry areas
    • We make serving the church the priority instead of casting Kingdom impact about being part of the church
    • We reward and demand busyness in the church instead of celebrating intimate growth in Christ
    • We equate busyness with spiritual growth
    • We don't allow people to step back and heal when tragedy hits 
    • We centralize the greatness of the church on certain leaders instead of Jesus (this is a huge problem we need to repent of), in which:
    • We rely on people more than we rely on Jesus Christ!
     These are just a few of many reasons I see the church becoming more and more busy, which has lead us to ignore biblical calls to intimacy and abiding in Christ. Too many of us are guilty (including me) of making busyness our model of Christian growth and are ignoring our own need to have rest, allowing us to enjoy what God has put before us. The problem doesn't just affect our own rest, it affects our families, friendships and our emotions. Peter Scazzero, a pastor in New York, says; "It is impossible for the Christian to be spiritually mature when they are emotionally immature" (Emotional Healthy Spirituality). In being busy, many of us are forsaking our mental health. We cover up our need for Christ to intervene in our emotional state by becoming so busy; that we think we don't have to deal with how we feel inside. However, Jesus showed incredible amounts of emotional health that I believe was fueled, not by his busyness, but by His resting in the Father and spending time with Him. When Jesus got angry, He did not sin, but because of His reliance on the Father through His life (John 14:10). However, when many of us get angry, we sin because our anger is not built on the lack of repentance but on the continuous bottling up of hurt after hurt. I know this because I had one of those moments last night. 

     What was supposed to be a sweet date night with my wife last night, ended with me venting for an hour to my wife how mad I was at someone. I had bottled it up and because I had become so busy, I did not meet with God about it but instead ruined a nice time with my wife (maybe watching a shoot em' up western didn't help either). What was I most angry about? The incredible demand and busyness of a leader that was killing the people that the leader is leading. It is an unhealthy cycle that I have seen too often and unfortunately have propagated myself. 

     Church people are too busy and I think this is lead from the pulpit in the church. This isn't just about ministry either, but about the American life. People don't make time for people anymore. I have observed too many times that Christians are too busy for the relationships that they need for personal growth. More than half of our spiritual growth happens in community, but many of us are too busy to spend anymore time than Sunday morning and maybe Wednesday nights with the church. If people would call us up, asking us to spend some time with them; our children's practice and game schedule have to be consulted first. We then have to see how much work we brought home because we have taken on too much in the first place. Date nights between spouses become rare because we have allowed work, school and extra activity to consume our schedules. When we do this, we don't have the time to spend in life with others, in which God uses to feeds us and leads us. Busyness is an issue that we don't want to deal with.

     And it leads to consumerism! It leads us to look for a church that will FIT our needs and schedule. Let me vent for a second: if you demand that your youth pastor do more activities with the students and he has to give up some discipleship with those students OR HIS FAMILY, YOU NEED TO REPENT! Activity does not grow people, community does! I have been on the other end of angry parents who reamed me for not doing more stuff with students when their students were struggling to love God. Too many of these parents think that church activities for students will cure what ails that student and it doesn't. Discipleship from parents, with youth workers joining them, is what will help those students most. Deep prayer for those students is necessary, not more lock-ins (which are from SATAN) or later tag outings. We are training our kids to be too active, we need to slow down and choose what its best for our families' to love Jesus more. 

     Okay, my emotional health has come out and I know that you are probably reading this saying, "Shawn, you are too busy right now, so why are you demanding us not to be busy" and you are right. It is something that I am working on myself, attempting to get myself out of this destructive lifestyle I have lived in for 19 years of ministry.
    
     I feel we are missing it big time in this and I said it. I said it because I love the church and the church is killing herself with busyness. If your pastor is working more than 50 hours a week, why? If your church's leadership team is stressed out because of the demands of ministry, why? If those in your church can't find time to eat dinner with their kids but finds time to do ministry, why? Could it be that our lifestyle is too busy? 

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