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Grappling with Time

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Being a missional pastor “ain’t easy.” There are inevitable compromises. No matter how hard I try, I end up spending less time on the thing I am really passionate about (mission) and more time on things I value less (organization). Some days I wonder if I really am pastoring missionally or whether I’ve succumbed to surviving the church machine.

For all those who suffer these same pangs in ministry, I offer the following list of desires, wishing for more time on some things and less on others, asking God for a more missionally driven ministry.

For the rest of the year, I desire to:

1. Spend less time in meetings and more time in the neighborhood. This is a constant struggle for me. To me, the organization of the church should be located in the congregation and carried on in the spiritual gifts. We need fewer organizational meetings. How do you manage meetings?

2. Spend less time figuring out details to make things work better and more time asking “What is God doing?” We in ministry need to continually lead our communities in asking, “Where is He working?” “How can we encourage, edify, build up, flourish this ministry?”

3. Spend less time trying to please Christians and more time ministering to the hurting, lost and poor who are outside of Christ. This one is hard. Please tell me I am not the only one who has struggled with this.

4. Spend less time writing sermons and more time listening and speaking truth lovingly into people’s lives. My goal is to never spend more than 12 hours a week writing sermons. Preaching the Word is important. The sermon proclaims the reality of the Lordship of Christ over people. Nevertheless, sermon prep must not dwarf mission. Sometimes I suspect sermon preparation takes so much time because I place too much importance on my own performance. How many hours a week do you spend on sermon prep?

5. Spend less time reading/writing on leadership and more time walking with/mentoring young leaders. If you are privileged to have a relationship with young pastors/ministers, I hope you enjoy speaking into their lives and having them with you when you minister—in the hospital, in the coffee house, in the homes and in the neighborhoods. I am finding less time to do this but recognize I must make more time. How much time do you spend mentoring leaders? It is absolutely essential to missional community.

6. Spend less time planning the worship gathering and more time in silence before God. In the church where I serve, the Sunday morning gathering is liturgical; it has its moving parts. The people come together to be centered in God through Jesus Christ, thereby being recentered for Mission Dei. My theory is that even if everyone participating in the service somehow got sick five minutes before church, everything should go smoothly. This releases more time for mission. How much time/energy does your church spend on the worship gathering?

7. Spend more time with the children and less time programming “entertainment with pizza.” This last comment is about youth/children’s programs as commonly conceived. Children’s spiritual formation does not center around entertainment but relationships. I have found that being with and teaching children is food for my soul.

8. Spend less time answering bizarre questions about outlier doctrines and more time sharing the vision of what church, community, mission and transformation can be as we participate together in this great life God has given us. Nonetheless, doctrine is essential. How do you discern where to draw the line?

9. Spend less time worrying about numbers and more time just hanging out with people. OK, to be honest, we don’t really fill out many forms anymore, but how much time do you spend worrying about “keeping the numbers up.” Instead, I’d like to spend more of that time relationally, building community with the people God has brought us thus far.

10. Spend less time frantically trying to catch up with all the words I have to deliver as a pastor, writer and professor and spend more time praying on long walks, letting the Spirit speak as I meditate on the situation at hand or the Scripture I just studied. Nothing feeds my creativity and strengthens my spirit like prayer on a long walk. What spiritual formation practices keep you from drying up inside?

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