There are times when all of us can feel overwhelmed by the ever-increasing volume of work. GLENN KAISER, a pastor at Chicago's Jesus People USA and the frontman for the Resurrection Band, urges us not to neglect time for prayer and for ourselves.
Those who are aware of that rather loud band I have played in for the past 25 years are laughing at the title of this column! I am not referring to decibels, but rather the amount of people, communications and work that we must learn how to accept with grace as we serve Jesus.
The late Mother Teresa was once asked how she could handle dealing with the masses of poor and terribly hurting people each day in Calcutta. Her response? "I can help them at a time." This is a large part of the answer. The Lord says plainly "To whom much is given, much will be expected." (Lk 12:48) My own life and the lives of others with whom I serve at the Jesus People Community here in Chicago bears this out. On the one hand, God has blessed us with many to meet, teach, minister to on all sorts of levels both practical and spiritual. On the other hand, the increasing number of people who come to us for help can at times seem quite overwhelming.
I recently found myself in the ever precarious position of answering email for hours on end, finally concluding that email has now become exactly what "snail-mail" has been for me for years: an ever-growing black hole that will never be completely satisfied.
Without going into all the practical reasons why I don't have a
secretariat, to help respond to all the communications I get, I must
say that most people are gracious, very sincere and fall into two
basic categories. Either they simply want to communicate a "thank you"
or ask me to help them or put them in touch with someone who can. On
the second point, I have been called to ministry by God for exactly
that purpose and am truly grateful to him for the opportunities
and "success stories" in such work
At the same time, there are moments when I look at the mountain of faxes, phone messages, email and snail-mail and just cringe. I know many of these individuals will never hear from me. The sheer volume ensures it. It is a burden I take to the Lord in prayer often. For I truly do get everything addressed to me and actually read, etc, and pray for the people and issues involved. Yet answering it all has proven next to impossible.
I know that many leaders in churches suffer the same overload as I and have read as well as conversed with others who get swamped. The practical and spiritual suggestions are not hard to come by. Pray, Take time to get away each day for a few minutes to quietly think and prioritise. Find and enlist the services of a trustworthy secretary (or two!). Delegate as many tasks and responsibilities to other as one can properly do. Offer opportunities to youngsters and experienced people and thereby share and encourage as well as benefit from their help.
No matter how perfect the system we must face the fact that even Jesus had little time to eat when ministry needs became great. It seems that He may have taken even more with the Father in such times. I have learned to do this.
It also seems to mere humans, we need to rest. Time alone, with our marriage partner, with our kids, fishing, golfing, some sort of recreation or just lying in the sun for a half hour may be overlooked or judged as lazy, selfish behaviour by some. I strongly disagree. One must not be condemned nor shackled to the helm of an overloaded ship with no port in sight. I find that when I avail myself of a nap, or a better sleeping schedule, or a bit of relaxing fun after a string of extremely full days, I am refreshed, not as prone to self-pity, frustration and burnout. And frankly, I'm more "in the Spirit", less grouchy and a lot more like the person God has intended me to be!
We all need "times of refreshing" in the Lord as the book of Acts states. We need times of direct spiritual intimacy, worship, Bible study, burden-sharing with other godly Christians with whom we're in relationship as well as comfort from the Lord himself. Sometimes we find it hard to disengage from the workload and the resulting stress -if we are at all thinking "upward" , this moves us to Jesus and practical solutions like these. It happens to all of us! Good thing too...
Too many of us get caught in doing the work of ministry and then God -and we ourselves - get the "leftovers", the dregs of love, comfort, strengthening. But if we neglect (and it's each individual Christian's responsibility to do right by God and themselves on this point) time with Jesus, godly folk who can help us relax and receive, the sheer volume of needs that come our way may well be the thing that causes us to quit doing that very ministry.
Wendi and I are often asked how it is that we are able to continue after so many years, miles and heartaches with broken people. Doing our best to faithfully go to our Source, and to simply close the door for a few minutes every so often is the answer. We have been richly blessed with incredible people who are truly servants -with warts and blemishes just like ours - and we do it together, not alone.
God grant us wisdom to check the mileage regularly, pour in the needed oil and park it too! Lest we fry the engine and end up in a ditch wondering how we got in such a mess.
As always, the Lord has the last word: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Mt 11:28)The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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