By Yana Conner
I have a problem. Maybe it’s a sin problem, but I’m not ready to call it that.
I still want to interpret my busyness as doing the Lord’s will. Because I am, right?
Isn’t taking that phone call from a distressed disciple—after I’ve already tucked myself nicely into bed—the definition of bearing one another’s burdens?
When I say “yes” to a teaching opportunity (even though my calendar says that’s not a good idea), I’m just using my gifts to point others to Christ, right? Didn’t Paul say, “If you have the gift of teaching, teach?”
Didn’t Jesus call us to live with a sense of urgency and “work while it is day” (John 9:4)?
Yes. He did. But neither you nor I are the omnipresent, all-powerful, never growing weary God. You can only be in one place at a time.
And though your capacity may be more than others, you still have limits and cannot function without an adequate amount of sleep.
In Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzaro says a person who consistently lives without limits is “suffering from a bad case of emotionally unhealthy spirituality” and at risk of “wreaking havoc on their personal lives and church.”
What if, in your attempt to serve your church, you’re hurting it?
What if your attempts to be everywhere to do everything out of your desire to be a good shepherd or leader is in direct conflict with the biblical mandate to develop the flock?
What if, in your busyness, you’re doing what the apostle Paul was trying to avoid?
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, after explaining how he labors tirelessly to become all things to all people so that he might reach some, Paul writes:
“Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize?…They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”
Though Paul always introduced himself to others as a servant and apostle of Christ, he never forgot his primary identity as God’s child.
He brought his body under strict control to ensure that his identity wasn’t constructed around his roles and that instead, his identity in Christ informed the way he fulfilled those roles.
If you’re a pastor, ministry leader, or faithful layperson, you must do the same. The temptation to run for the perishable crown of ministry degrees and the praises of humans is ever before you.
We live in a world that measures the worth of a day by its productivity. If I got a lot done, it was a good day. If I didn’t, why am I even here?
This yoke is not the one Jesus prepared for you. He didn’t call you into doing. He called you into being.
Here are four ways for you to trade in your doing for being:
1. Develop rhythms that call you away from doing and into being.
Turn your phone off. I’m not sure God made us to live in a world where people have so much access to us and us to them.
In his podcast, “Fight Hustle, End Hurry,” with John Mark Comer, Jefferson Bethke shares that one way he resists becoming a human-doing and embraces his status as a human-being is turning off his phone for one hour a day, one day a week, and one week per year.
This rhythm, along with the Sabbath and silence, will allow you to slow down and catch up with your soul.
I know this seems like a radical idea, but these are the rhythms your soul needs to avoid burnout and disqualification.
2. Only do what you can do and delegate the rest.
Remember Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law?
He saw all that Moses was doing to shepherd God’s people, and while he thought his efforts were noble, he told him plainly, “What you’re doing is not good. … You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you” (Exodus 18:18).
When leaders don’t delegate, they not only burn out themselves, but they also burn out those they’re serving.
When you overcommit yourself and have to reschedule a meeting for the third time, you exhaust the people you’re serving and leave a bad taste in their mouth about Christian leaders who fail to live what they preach.
3. Pass the mic.
When your calendar says it’s a bad idea for you to say yes to that commitment, pass the mic to someone else who is capable and available to say “yes.”
You’re not the only person in your church or your network that the Holy Spirit has gifted to preach, teach, or serve.
Do your due diligence to train faithful men and women who are able to teach (2 Timothy 2:2). And find joy in sharing the mic with them.
Say no when your calendar is full and refer them to someone you trust who will be an even better fit than you.
4. Preach the gospel to yourself daily.
And don’t just preach to yourself the good news of the gospel. Remind yourself of the bad news.
Tell yourself daily that you are your flawed, weak, and in need of a Savior. Only then will you persist in asking God to “equip you with everything good to do His will” (Hebrews 13:21).
Only then will you not rely on your own strength and intellect and invite others to help you carry the load.
As ministers of the gospel, like Paul David Tripp wrote in Dangerous Calling, we need to remember that we’re children of God who are daily in need of God’s grace, in the middle of our own sanctification, battling daily with sin, and ever so in need of the body of Christ.
As we remember these things, we will shake off the idol of human doing and become human beings.
A St. Louis native residing in Durham, N.C., Yana graduated with an M.Div. in Christian Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theology Seminary and serves as an associate campus director at the downtown Durham campus of the Summit Church.