“I will not try to run my own life or the lives of others; that is God’s business.” –Eugene Peterson
The life of a leader is a peculiar thing. We step into leadership because we want to make a difference and lead people towards life in Jesus. As we do, we realize we can’t make that happen. We are simply gardeners and examples attempting to create environments where people can be confronted with the truth about God–the gospel–and repent and believe. If control, manipulation, power, and programs don’t make disciples, what is a leader supposed to do? How does a leader avoid the pitfalls of both burnout and apathy?
Live in the Urgency of the Spirit
God is patient. Somehow we think that the Spirit is frantic and urgent, but he is actually patient and powerful. Consider the lame man healed by the Spirit in Acts 3. This man had to have been passed by Jesus multiple times in his life. Somehow God waited to heal the man much later. Or consider the decades of patience as the gospel slowly moved into Europe and only after a dream appeared to Paul after days of being denied by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not a yes man. The Holy Spirit waits, says no, prepares, and works over time as much as he works in an instance.
Seek Rhythms of Rest
Rest does not mean doing nothing. Rest also doesn’t mean doing chores around the house. Rest also doesn’t mean ‘family time.’ All of those things may be components of rest for you. However, rest truly means to marvel at all the God has done and is doing. The first day in the life of a human was not building, organizing, it was resting in the goodness God had created. It was only after that day of resting in God, that they began doing the things he commanded them to do. We live on mission from a starting point of rest. We don’t rest from the mission, we get on mission because we rest.
This means that you learn how to remember and worship the goodness of God. Make space within your life to focus on resting in God’s work. You will do this daily. You will do this weekly. You will do this monthly, seasonally, and annually. These are patterns throughout the Old Testament with sabbaths, festivals, and jubilees. In each of these, people stopped trying to make things happen. They left their fields, their military posts, their labor, etc. The point was always to remember and celebrate the things that God had done to redeem them and form them into a people. It is good wisdom for us to do the same. What does this look like? Just as an example, this is what I try to do:
Daily, I take a 15-minute walk through my neighborhood praying and reflecting on what God had done the day before. Asking him on that day, “Help me see you and step into the things you call me into.”
Weekly, I take a day where I intentionally focus on what God is doing and has done. I remember the gift of him. For me, I journal, write, read, and spend time with my family. We remind ourselves of God’s grace. We also spend time with friends and neighbors on this day. However, the point of this day is to celebrate and worship who God is and what he has done.
Monthly, I get out of town or at the minimum my neighborhood. I read, write, and mostly pray. I’ve found a monastery an hour and a half away and the drive alone is worth it. Also, at different times in our marriage, my wife and I have been able to spend a night out of our context once a month. This is an amazing practice everyone should try. As we leave, we pray and ask God to bless our time. While we are away we reflect on the past month.
Annually, I take a real vacation, even if it is a stay-cation. During this week, do what is relaxing and enjoyable to you. Hike, ski, swim, sun bath, read, whatever is enjoyable. I eat good food and listen to good music. We take time to reflect and worship God for what he has done and pray for the things we hope God will do in the next year.
As you do all of these enjoyable things of rest, take time to reflect on these questions:
- What were the low-lights and hard things last year?
- What were the high-lights and clear blessings last year? (Oddly, these answers end up being the same as the hard things.)
- What did we see God doing last year?
- What do we hope to see happen this next year?
- What fruit do we pray to see this next year?
- What are our fears with this next year?
- How is God good, great, glorious, and gracious?
Leaders must have boundaries, or as some call it, priorities. Leaders must understand that when all the people leave their house after a gospel community meeting and they lock the front door, they still have a community they are called to disciple in their home. Your spouse and your children are the front-line priority of disciple making.
Discover healthy balance between work, family, friendships, and serving.
Busyness is the temptress of our age. Living out of balance and without margins is becoming the standard. Work weeks are rapidly growing to be 24/7 priorities with access to e-mail, texts, and work from home in the evenings and on weekends being norm not the exception. Workaholism is celebrated. Furthermore, the demands of raising a family in a hyper competitive and entertainment driven culture fills schedules with sporting events, clubs, and homework. Boredom has now become unacceptable. Gone are the days of sending kids outside to entertain themselves. Parents are increasingly becoming cruise directors for their children. At this point we haven’t even arrived at the pressures of friendship, community, and serving.
Leaders of communities are called to be examples of boundaries with work, family, and community. As you step into or even continue in leadership you will have to deal with workaholism, kid-idolatry, and business. There are a few things you must be aware of as a leader of a gospel community.
You are not a doctor on call. Discover ways of discerning when and where to step into things that arise throughout each week. It is important to determine, in advance, how you will generally make decisions to step into problems and with what urgency.
In the same way, avoid having an open-door policy with your entire life. You need to have marked off times as a family or individual that are private, restful, and for your family. Now, many folks live in cultures where most of live is marked off, private, and secluded from community. They have taken a good practice and gone too far. It will be up to you and your family to create boundaries that are healthy for you and your family, recognized your own energy and time capacity for people. Every family is different and must depend on the wisdom of others and the Holy Spirit to establish boundaries.