I learned something early on in my ministry. Unfortunately, it was not good. I learned that many people primarily see ministry as doing things for God. Now of course that is overly simplified. Yet, that was my perception at the time. It seemed like we especially admired people who looked exhausted. Of course, ministry can be very difficult and exhausting at times. Paul even spoke once of warning a group of people "…night and day with tears." Yet ministry and life in Christ are really to be much more than a life of exhaustion.
A few years ago, I was in conversation with a minister who traveled with his wife throughout the country speaking in many churches. I asked him what he was seeing in these churches. "How are you reading these churches?" His reply was interesting. "What I am seeing are churches full of very tired people. In fact, many of them just look exhausted." Many of us understand what he was saying. Don’t we? Maybe you are a young mother with several children. You may be a father who is just trying to deal with all the demands of your job and stay connected to your children as well. You may be a university student with papers to write, books to read, and another test at the end of this week.
Yet, being a spiritual person is not about being "spiritual" on top of everything else I must do this week. "Let me see, I have to go to Target, do the laundry, clean out the flower bed, and call my mother so that she knows we are coming this weekend. Oh yea, I need to also be spiritual sometime today." Rather than one more item on the ever-growing list, maybe my relationship with God is something more than this.
I appreciate Randy Harris’ words in a fine little book, Like a Shepherd Lead Us:
This is the place to begin any discussion of spirituality for church leaders — a group of people who surely fit the description of being busy, frantic and overwhelmed. Let me say it as clearly as I can: Spirituality cannot be one more task piled on top of people already overburdened with the care of God’s flock. Enough is enough! We are not the Messiah. That job, thankfully, has been taken and done extraordinarily well! You and I must quit acting as if the whole of eternity depends on us doing one more job.
The call of the spiritual life is not to more frantic activity. The spiritual life is rather the call to peace. So, as we come to walk more closely with God, the chaos should recede from our lives. We cease to be under the tyranny of frantic business.
When I visited the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., the leaders repeated a phrase that has haunted me ever since. "If you are overextended, you are under-committed." They take commitment so seriously that they believe one can’t be committed to thirty different things. So if you are overextended, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’re under-committed. I think that is the description of most Christian leaders I know, and it is certainly a description of me. Deeper spirituality is not a matter of doing more stuff.
(Randy Harris, "Spirituality for the Busy, Frantic, and Overwhelmed" in Like a Shepherd Lead Us, edited by David Fleer and Charles Siburt)