Most people I know involved in compassion, justice, and reconciliation ministry undervalue the art of doing nothing. Our reasoning is the world is a very broken place so who we must always be about our Father’s business. We take Ephesians 2:10 to the extreme.
When I first started as a Youth Pastor in the ‘hood in 1992 at the ripe old age of 22 I thought vacations, sabbaticals, etc. were for wimps. Those of us who were truly sold out and connected with the Spirit did not need to rest, regardless of what that silly thing called the 4th commandment said.
Then when I became a church planter in 2000 I held onto that belief. I wore my ministry with pride. I was the king of over-extension and prided myself on the fact that I could do the work of 2 men.
Three years into doing the good work of church planting while sitting in my office the phone rang. I could not answer it. My brain was telling my arm to move, but it wouldn’t; I was that physically and mentally tired from doing good works.
I sat in that frozen state for about a minute, and when I regained my composure, I asked the Lord what was going on. In hindsight it wasn’t that hard to figure out. I was burned out and I was in sin by refusing to keep the Sabbath.
My church and the surrounding community had so many things broken that I was playing Mr. Fix-It around the clock. My body and soul had revolted to the way I was treating it, and so was my family.
That same year one day while eating dinner my daughter Gabrielle (who was 3 at the time) looked over at me and said “Daddy what are you doing here?” I explained that I was eating dinner. Then she said it again, “Daddy what are YOU doing here?” Then it dawned on me. She really was confused that I was home eating instead of out in the community doing good works.
Good works are great, and for someone who has dedicated his life to doing them I certainly don’t want to downplay their importance to the reconciliation effort. But I had to realize that I was human, which meant I couldn’t fix this world. My good works alone couldn’t fix all the racism, classism, sexism, and other brokenness that was going on in my city.
The bottom line was that unless my efforts at reconciliation were1) bathed in prayer; 2) empowered by the Holy Spirit; 3) done with ministry/family balance I would never transcend a broken world in order to advance the Kingdom of God. In order to operate at optimum effectiveness you must take a break from ministry.
It was also apparent that if I did not spend more time at home and make myself more available to my family I was in danger of raising up dreaded “PK’s.” What are they? In the neighborhood I grew up, the worse behaved kids who hated church always were the Preacher Kids, or PK’s for short. In hindsight I have come to believe that most of those kids hated church mainly because they saw it as competition for their Daddy’s time.
I’m kind of slow so it took me years to figure out that if I am not regularly taking extended periods of time off than I am not going to be as effective as I could be as a minister of the Gospel. So for the last 5 years we have been taking vacations, I take “margin” days off when needed, and I have a monthly spiritual retreat day where the phone goes off and email is allowed to accumulate as I spend time in the Scripture and contemplative prayer.
Each year the value of “doing nothing” rises exponentially in my life. So let me encourage you to take some time and do nothing. It’s good to be bored, it’s great to have a clear schedule, it’s fantastic to turn off your cell phone, and even let your email build up to an ungodly amount of messages. I have learned the world will be there when I get back.