Categories
Christian Living

A Biblical Imbalance

The default topic in Christian leadership circles today is balance.

We need to balance our work and family life. We need to balance ministry in our community with ministry at our church. We need to balance our budget. We need a balanced diet.

Something is wrong in your life? You are out of balance.

And that has me wondering. Is the very concept of balance a Christian concept or an Asian philosophy of Yin and yang?

When I look at the New Testament I see Jesus calling men and women to a holy imbalance. He asked his first disciples, who asked their disciples, to leave everything for the Kingdom of God.

Some Examples of Imbalance Celebrated

  • Luke 5:1-10 – Jesus first asks Peter, James, and John to waste their time fishing in the wrong conditions. Than he asks them to leave their home, business, and everything they knew to follow him. Those nets, that boat, and the business all rotted.
  • Luke 9:23 – “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
  • Matthew 26:6-13 – A woman pours expensive perfume on Jesus, his disciples called that a horrible imbalance and Jesus affirmed her. “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me.”
  • Acts 5:1-11 – Dave Ramsey would have affirmed Ananias and Sapphira for their financial wisdom. They held a little back just in case. The Apostles weren’t interested in balanced devotion, they demanded all or nothing.
  • Acts 7 – Stephen had an opportunity to defuse the anger of those in power, you know, balance things out. Instead he threw gasoline on the fire and was stoned.

There are hundreds more examples of this. The New Testament church embraced imbalance! It was celebrated. A call to follow Christ was extreme, never safe, and put your life permanently and joyfully horribly out of balance.

The very concept of balance is an avoidance of extremes. It’s holding something back. In many ways, our avoidance of extremes and calls for balance is the very thing that prevents us from truly experiencing the fullness of the weight of the cross on our shoulders.

If you ask me we need to ask people to count the cost. We need to call people not to a cheap version of discipleship but to one that is extremely out of balance. Jesus didn’t call us to balance. He calls us to pick up the cross– an instrument of death– and daily follow him.

Christianity preaches the infinite worth of that which is seemingly worthless and the infinite worthlessness of that which is seemingly so valued.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Categories
family hmm... thoughts

Reclaiming Weekends

This weekend I am not checking my work e-mail.

Ah, work.

I love my job. Maybe I love it a bit too much?

When I first started at YS I was pretty good about balance. I limited my availability. I worked from home at least one day per week. Weekends became sacred time again. And I did a lot more little things to set me on a healthy path.

Then last February that all changed. Some positions were eliminated and we were put in a meat grinder position of turning the company around financially. Without being asked to do so I took ownership of that– “I’m going to do my part.” and all that healthy balance went out the window.

The other day Tic and I were chatting about this being a reset point for our lives. Sure, there is infinite work to be done. But if we don’t pace ourselves the workload will destroy us. He said something along the lines of… “If I’m not at a convention or something I’m fully aware that I’m not that important. I don’t need to be reached all the time.” That really resonated to me. It kind of cut to the quick of the issue. Like Marko has talked about on his blog, I have an unhealthy tendency to attach my significance to the world by what I do instead of who I am to the most important people in my life.

And so Tic and I are trying something. It feels like a big step. In reality, it’s a baby step. But we want to start off with one little victory before trying to add more. On Friday we both set out-of-office messages that just said, “I’m not available over the weekend.” And we’re both going to try really hard to ignore work stuff for the weekend. And we’re going to catch-up on Tuesday to see how it went. (Starting on a three day weekend is asking too much, so we just want to make it Friday at 5pm until Monday morning.)

There is lots to do. In fact, there is tons to do. Far more than I can fit into a work week. But I’m just not that important. The world will continue to spin. Projects will wait. I don’t need to work night and day and weekends, too.

The fact that I have 43 unopened e-mails on my work account is driving me crazy! And knowing that that number will be about 200 by Monday morning is tough to deal with. But the truth is simple. I’m not that important to the world. The fact that 43 unopened emails are driving me crazy reveals the true depth of the problem, too.

I am really important to my family.

I desire to be fully present. I need to work on that. I’m trying.

Crap. 47 emails.

I need to stop looking.

Categories
Church Leadership

Ministers Need Friends

Photo by LabyrinthX via Flickr
Photo by LabyrinthX via Flickr

This may come as a shock to people who go to church– but being a church leader is a very lonely job. Sure, if you work in a church with a large staff it probably isn’t that lonely since you have co-workers who can become friends. But by-and-large, friends are hard to come by for ministers.

Loneliness is a major issue for church staff.

Reasons

  1. It’s hard to be friends with parishioners. Kristen and I have been fortunate in this regard, but by-and-large it is really hard to truly be friends with people in your church. You can be acquaintances, but you’ll never get to the point where you can go out for a laugh (or a beer) and lament about work sucking. (or just share “real life.” You have to be guarded.)
  2. It’s hard to find people wired like you. Even in large cities, there aren’t many people wired quite like a pastor.
  3. It’s hard to be friends since work hours are weird. I’ve not met a person who worked in a church who kept 9-5 type hours. It’s always that plus a bunch of nights out… randomly scattered. Makes it tough to be friends.
  4. It’s hard to have a life outside of the four walls of a church. The reason so much is said and written about balance and rest for church workers is that they suck at balance and resting! The job is just too demanding.

Solutions

  1. Understand that this isn’t optional. For your long-term health as a minister in the community, you require friendships. (Not church acquaintances) You require true friendship outside of the church, in your local community.
  2. Seek permission from your supervisors. This sounds like a silly step, but you may need to hear “get a life” from your boss or board to make this a reality. If they’ve been a leader in the church for a while they will know that if you have good friendships locally you are more likely to stay in the community a lot longer. But if you are lonely, you will be a poor leader and in your boredom you’ll start looking for a job elsewhere.
  3. You aren’t in ____, so get over it. I know you are probably from somewhere you liked better. And you have friends who are in those places. That’s not helping you. Get over it and get to know some people in your community. God planted you where you are, He is smarter than you are, you need to suck it up and make friends.
  4. Do something outside the church. How did I make friends when I was in full-time church ministry? I volunteered to coach the golf team, I joined a golf league, a started participating in local politics. I wasn’t looking for 1,000 friends, just a few people who didn’t go to my church that I could be “just Adam” with and not “Pastor Adam.”
  5. Meet up with your long-time best friends once per year. Meet up at a conference, go away hunting, go on vacation together, go visit them for the Holidays… just do something where for a few days you can be with your long-time friends.