Ministry's Most Commonly Forgotten Secret

My week had been particularly hectic, stressful and busy. But honestly, so had the week before! After thinking more about it, I realized that actually we hadn’t taken a day off in more than a few weeks now. Things just kept popping up. I’d say to myself, “This is just a season. It’s how it is now, but it won’t always be like this. We can rest sometime next week and catch up.”
What I really needed was rest. When planting a church, one of the easiest things to be put on the back burner is the need for rest. It’s essential to take a break from our work. If we neglect this, we have the candle lit at both ends and will end up burning out.
[Tweet “It’s how it is now, but it won’t always be like this.”] Church planters are especially vulnerable to to burn out. Look at any church planter’s planner and you’ll see a never-ending list. There is just so much to do:

  • Build a core team
  • Fundraising
  • Cast vision
  • Create vision booklets
  • Make phone calls to supporters
  • Write emails to keep your prayer team up to speed

And all of this is in addition to regular life stuff:

  • Taking the kids to soccer practice
  • Making cookies for the fundraiser
  • Working out to stay in shape
  • Keeping up with friendships
  • Planning a date night with the spouse

Sounds exhausting just reading these lists isn’t it? (Take deep breaths. In and out.)
See, that’s the thing. For many planters, life feels completely filled to the brim. We know we need to take a break, but we struggle to have an imagination for how that actually happens. The rigorous schedule, constant pressure and lingering anxiety can be a vicious cycle that we easily fall into. It can often feel like life is running away with us.
This was where I found myself that day when I realized it had been multiple weeks since our last day off. I knew something needed to change.

Rhythms of life

We all have a calling to work to extend God’s kingdom. Equally, we have a calling to rest from that work. He invites us to work with him and he promises us rest. It’s essential to live into each of these realities and have a rhythm of both in our lives. Jesus is always our model and he lived a life of rest and work. It was a fundamental spiritual discipline that he engaged in regularly.
We need to have a rhythm of life that swings fully into actual rest—where we are recreated, refreshed, restored, reconnected to ourselves, God and others. It’s then that we can swing back fully into actual work—not striving and stress-filled, but moving out in God’s power, where there is an ease to our work because of the Spirit’s power behind us.
The big questions are:
How do we live our lives in a way that swings into both worlds when planting a church? How do we not neglecting one or the other? How can we have this rhythm swinging in a healthy way?
Before jumping straight to the practicals, the best place to begin is to take a look at our thoughts and beliefs about rest and work. We can have all the best plans for rest, but often something at the core still keeps us from it. If you are feeling worn out, stressed, and tired today consider: What are the thoughts behind those feelings?

Those thoughts are fuel

Just like in a car, our thoughts end up driving many of our decisions and actions. When we can identify the thoughts, we can begin the process of allowing the Lord to renew our minds. We can’t do battle with something that is nameless. Identifying the thought and belief is the first step.
Some of the common thoughts that we may think are:

  • We may believe that rest is not productive, helpful or accomplishing anything.
  • We may think we have to earn our down time.
  • We feel we are being lazy if we need rest.
  • We may see busyness as a status symbol or a confirmation that we’re doing it right, so we avoid rest.
  • We may believe that rest is deserved only in proportion to how crazy full our life is.
  • We may believe rest is impossible if we have young children.
  • We may think that rest is only found on the beach with a cold soda in hand and no one else around.
  • We may think that rest is “me” time, and that feels simply like I’m being selfish.

Are there ones you identify with?
When we recognize, with compassionate curiosity, the thoughts and beliefs we have about rest and work we open ourselves up to God’s empowering presence. Only then can we make space for the Lord to speak to us, heal us and bring freedom through renewing our minds.
The truth that sets us free to rest is that God can handle things without me for one day. He has got this!
Today consider what thoughts or beliefs keep you from resting and taking a break? What good news does God want you to know about that? How can you respond to that good news this week?
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About the Author

Deb Sternke

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