“Slow Down, You Move Too Fast”

The Epidemic of Busyness

We live margin-less lives.  Our personal, professional and church calendars are full to over-flowing.  As a matter of fact, busyness for many is a badge of honor.  The busier we are, the more important we feel.  We take it as a compliment when people say about us, “They work all the time.  They are just so busy!”

Our culture is fast-paced.  People in many places around the world shake their heads in disbelief and maybe even disapproval as they note how we Americans cram our lives with activity.  We Americans are spoiled by the sheer number of options that are available to us each and every day. If we can, it seems we feel we must.

Raising children used to be about calling them in from a pick-up game with other children in the street, listening to them and finding out about their day at the dinner table and reading to them at bedtime. Now it appears that for most raising children is about ferrying them around in the mini-van from school to soccer, to gymnastics, to ballet lessons, to scouts, to music lessons, to rehearsal for the school play, to the mall, to the library, to football practice, to youth group, to… well you get it.  By now you are adding your common, destinations in your mind.

Solitaire has migrated from our computers to our smart phones.  The dinner table is for reading email, while driving, for some, is the perfect time for texting.  Perish the thought we might turn off the ubiquitous cell phone.

As a society, we have moved beyond the mere “tyranny of the urgent.” We live buried under the avalanche of options and opportunities.” We live buried under the sheer weight of busyness.

Now understand, I am not casting stones here.  I am not the righteous Pharisee eager to cast the first stone. Quite the opposite, I sit in that circle of broken people and with downcast eyes say barely above a whisper, “Hello. My name is Bill. I am a workaholic.” I am a fellow-traveler on this journey.

The Problem with Busyness

God created us with a natural rhythm built in.  He instituted the Sabbath and observed it Himself.  He labored for six days and rested on the seventh.  He commanded us to do the same, but few of us do.  We go like the energizer bunny to the detriment of our bodies, minds and souls.

But perhaps the greatest casualty of our busyness is relationships.  When we live like everyone else does, when we get caught up in the busyness of our world, we lose connection.  We don’t have time left for others – even or maybe especially for our spouses and children. Busyness also robs us of connection with ourselves.  It’s impossible for a busy person to pause, reflect, meditate, contemplate or simply be still.

We not only lose connection with others and ourselves, but we also lose connection with God.  We are too busy to read and steep in the Word of God.  We are too busy to pray.  We are too busy to be still and know that He is God.

The Pathway to Health

There are no doubt additional steps along the pathway to a balanced life, but I want to suggest three.  First, just say “No.” Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Second, prioritize time for the Word, prayer, silence, solitude and reflection. Save enough time in each day to actually connect once again with God.  Be still before Him and as you are still before Him you will grow in the knowledge that He is God.

Third, prioritize time for relationships with others.  I grieve the time I robbed from my wife and two sons over the years of my busyness and workaholism.  I cannot go back and do it over, but I can make different and better choices today and tomorrow.  When it comes to being challenged to make right choices in this area of life, there is a Sarah Groves song that speaks powerfully to my soul.

Here are the words…

Just One More Thing

There’s always just one more thing
There’s always another task
There’s always, “I just have one more small favor to ask”
And everything is urgent and everything is now
I wonder what would really happen if I stopped somehow

I’ll be there in a minute
Just a few places to go
You wake up a few years later and your kids are grown
And everything is important
But everything is not
At the end of your life your relationships are all you’ve got

And love to me is when you put down that one more thing and say
I’ve got something better to do
And love to me is when you walk out on that one more thing and say
Nothing will come between me and you
Not even one thing

There will never be an end to the requests upon your time
It’s your place to stand up and tell the world
You’ve got to rest awhile
And everything is important
But everything is not
At the end of your life your relationships are all you’ve got

And love to me is when you put down that one more thing and say
I’ve got something better to do
Love to me is when you walk out on that one more thing and say
Nothing will come between me and you
Not even one thing

Keep It Simple, Simon

It takes no real talent to take the simple and make it sound complex.  Now taking something complex and making it simple enough for even a child to understand is a fine art practiced by way too few people.  General Colin Powell once said, “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers.”

During England’s darkest days in World War II, Winston Churchill demonstrated that truth.  London was under siege from the German Luftwaffe.  The relentless barrage of bombs was eroding the spirit and resolve of the English people.  While many things needed to be done to in order to survive the attacks and win the war, Churchill wisely narrowed his messages to the people down to the bare essential thing from which all the other things would flow.

His simple, often repeated message was summed up in a speech delivered to a group of students at one of England’s most prestigious boy’s schools. He stood before them and said, “Never, never, never give up” and then sat down.

On another occasion Churchill put it this way, “If you’re going through Hell, keep going.”  Whether you see that admonition as humorous or serious, the message is the same – persevere!

Our Mission is Simple

As Christians, our mission is simple and Jesus was crystal clear about it.  He commanded us, “In your going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” So for Christians, individually or collectively as the church, our mission is simple and clear.  We exist to make disciples.

Keeping Discipleship Simple     

Now if our mission is to make disciples, it is imperative for us to know what a “made disciple” looks like.  What kind of disciple should we be as individual Christians?  And what kind of disciples are we to make?

Our first clue is found in the Great Commission itself.  He could have given a lengthy list of characteristics but he gave just one, simple qualifier.  More than anything else he wants obedient disciples.  People who demonstrate they are Christ-followers by consistently obeying him.  In other words, mature disciples obey Jesus.

A second theme that clearly points to what it means to be a mature disciple is first found in Deuteronomy 6:13.  “Fear the LORD your God, serve him only…”  Throughout the Old Testament and into the New, there is a theme – serious disciples serve God in all they do.  While contending with Satan during his wilderness temptation Jesus brought an end to the encounter by declaring, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”  When Jesus affirmed his belief that he was to serve God and God only, Satan knew the battle was lost and he withdrew leaving Jesus alone in the desert.  Satan knows it’s no use to continue to seduce us when we clearly understand that mature Christians serve God.

Jesus made it clear that mature disciples are undivided in their serving God.  “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Luke 16:13)  Paul modeled what we are to do as Christ-followers.  He said to the Romans, “God whom I serve with my whole heart…” (Romans 1:9)  In other words, mature disciples serve Jesus.

 Returning to the Simple Truth

Many today seek to define “mature disciple” in their own way.  For many a mature disciple is one who keeps the rules they think are important.  Others define maturity in terms of longevity.  They say, “I have been a church member for sixty two years” which being interpreted in their minds means “I am a mature Christian.”  There are countless other self-serving ways to define a mature disciple or mature Christian.

In this life as sinful, fallen creatures in a sinful, fallen world we will never completely obey Jesus.  But maturity is the relentless pursuit of knowing and doing His will.  Maturity is becoming more aware of everything “he has commanded us” and doing what he has commanded with increasing consistency.

And maturity is becoming more and more consistent in serving God. It means finding new and creative ways to serve God.  It means learning the endless, creative and meaningful ways in which we can serve him by serving “the least of these.”  (Matthew 25:40-45)

The simple truth about discipleship is this. Mature disciples, mature Christians, mature Christ-followers…

Obey Jesus

And

Serve God

One Cause, One Commander

DougHeader

The other day two things converged to reaffirm for me a key leadership lesson. First I found myself re-reading of “Winning on Purpose” by John Kaiser. Second I had the occasion to watch the movie Ike: Countdown to D-Day (2006).

The leadership lesson is: In great causes a primary leader is essential

 Kaiser’s book presents both the rationale and practicalities for pastor lead churches.

The movie opened with an intense dialogue between Winston Churchill, then Prime Minister of England and Dwight Eisenhower. In that conversation Eisenhower was diplomatically demanding to be named supreme commander in Europe. What drove Eisenhower was not ego, but a deep conviction that a single primary leader was the most effective way to secure victory. It was the importance of the cause and the high cost of failure that drove him to seek this role not ambition.

 Eisenhower warned that without that “Supreme” commander they would “face inter-service bickering, clashing egos and conflicting operational deployments”. Even though we might hope that the cause and context of the church would eliminate these things, my experience tells me otherwise.

The cause of defeating the Nazis was both urgent and righteous. It was fought to secure a future of freedom. The cause of Christ is no less urgent and we fight to secure an eternity of freedom for the lost. All great causes require a primary leader. There is no greater cause than the great commission.

Peace,

Doug Sig

Intrigued? Differ in opinion? I encourage you to both watch the movie (available on Netflix) and read the book (I don’t get any royalties), or sound off below.

UNBIAS 1

DougHeader

This morning on my way to my first appointment I found myself following a car with the following vanity license plate; “UNBIAS 1”.

As I pondered what might motivate someone to pay extra to declare to the world their universal neutrality on all subjects, something occurred to me.

The very statement is not an honest one. The license plate communicates a strong conviction that neutrality is the best position to hold. The problem is that that position is a biased one.

Here are some possible value statements that might be more honest than a bold proclamation of being unbiased.

 They value perceived harmony overr conviction

They value perceived neutrality over seeking truth

They value silence over honest communication of differences

What do you think?

Doug Sig

Can church programs get in the way…

 

DougHeader

Below is a quote from an article by Bill Easum, Mel Lawrenz, Adele Calhoun, and Rich Nathan | posted 4/19/2010.

“We can organize more and more ministries—worship experiences, Bible classes, small-group fellowships, support groups, outreach opportunities, mission encounters—and yet, for all this, we still struggle with the most basic goal: fostering spiritual growth. In fact, church activities sometimes get in the way of spiritual growth… How can churches help and not hinder the Great Commission—the making of disciples of Jesus?

Do you agree or disagree with this comment and how would you answer their question?Doug Sig