It’s been two years since we planted a new church. It’s not the first church my wife and I have planted but it’s the first one that has survived the first year and grown. The ironic thing I’ve found is that a successful church plant is much more difficult to live through than one that dies in the first year. The weight of responsibility, the burden of keeping roles filled by volunteers (probably the single greatest challenge), the wondering if we’ll stay afloat financially, the wearing of so many hats that I’ve lost track, dealing with critics and pharisees, doing 500 pounds worth of work for an ounce of return, and the inability to switch it all off. I know that last part is probably my fault, but working from home because there’s no office space in our building blurs a lot of lines and makes it difficult to get unstuck from “pastor mode”. You want to know the crazy part? I LOVE IT!!
I love carrying the church’s burdens to Jesus in prayer. I love investing in the lives of others and dreaming about where God is leading us. I love being a spiritual director, leader, and (as Brennan Manning would say) “prophet and professional lover”. But…
I’m tired. More tired than I’ve ever been. Exhausted well beyond capacity. Running on fumes would be an upgrade for me. In fact, I deeply fear burnout. Many of the things I really enjoy doing, I don’t want to do any more. The smallest task feels like a huge burden. And the people nearest and dearest to me often feel like a drain instead of the blessing the truly are.
I know that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. I recognize this is not a healthy place. I have not done a good job honoring the sabbath or pacing myself. So, before I go off and do something stupid to medicate this feeling of exhaustion, depression, and burnout I’m going to take some action. Here it is…
My family and I will be taking a total media fast for the month of July. No television, no movies, no social media, no video games. In fact, no screen time at all unless it’s work related. Tim Ferris wrote, “a glut of information creates a deficit of attention.” I am definitely feeling that and I’ve grown weary from a constant state of distraction. I won’t even be carrying my phone on me. It will stay in the car when I’m out and in my office when I’m home. For my close friends and family members that might be reading this, you know how to reach me (hint: it’s not on Facebook).
I’ll be taking a 5 day silent retreat. Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, “Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool.” That’s me right now, restless and foolish. It’s time to be quiet, sit still, and listen for the still small voice of God. Henri Nouwen writes that words have a way of causing our passion to leak from us. The more we talk, the more passion that escapes. I can testify that he is absolutely right! It’s time to shut up and listen up!
I’ll be disciplining myself to do something I enjoy that has nothing to do with anything I consider productive. You might be thinking “WHAT???” But, if you’ve ever planted a church or started a business, you know that there are tremendous feelings of guilt when a few precious hours become available and you don’t lay those hours on the altar of productivity. I might pick up my guitar (it’s been over a year) or go out with friends or even write a bit of fiction. I might even take a nap!!
So that’s it. Stick a fork in me. I’m done. Hopefully when I come back in August I’ll have more energy, be clearer headed, experienced God’s refreshing, and be living with a bit more balance. If you’re feeling anything like me, let me encourage you to get to a quiet place soon. Don’t wait until you’re on the verge of burnout. Your family and ministry will thank you (and so will your soul).