The season leading up to Christmas is a very busy one for those who serve the local church. There are many meetings, outreach plans, and events to attend. Please know that I pray for you daily and that my heart is always cheering you on.
It is in this spirit of Christmas that I am prompted to express my concern for one of the three Missional Priorities in our District: Clergy Health. As I travel across our beautiful district and spend time with many pastoral leaders, my concern remains that none of us would “grow weary in well-doing” (Gal 6:9).
I express this concern in the same way as the Apostle Paul, because I know that in many cases, ministry leaders tend to sacrifice themselves for the sake of those whom they serve. Pastoral leaders often neglect their own physical, emotional, relational and spiritual health for the misguided purposes of their calling. In their desire to bring life to others, they can unknowingly neglect the essential life-giving needs of their own soul! Jesus said in Matthew 16:26, “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
May I offer one prophetic word, which might become a source of life-giving wisdom for many of us as we approach the Christmas season?
Over the Christmas season, many of us will sing an anthem that celebrates Christ’s birth and ushers in our expectation of “peace on earth.” Does “peace” resonate in your life?
Stop and consider your ministerial and personal worlds.
What are you doing that might be robbing you of peace? What things are encroaching upon the margins of your schedule? What is robbing your soul of rest and solitude? Perhaps the elusive thief is sheer busyness.
We must protect the priority of Sabbath, even during the most hectic seasons of life. It is one command given by God, which seems to be so easily dismissed in our world today. Breaking this specific commandment is often-times applauded and occasionally rewarded by our culture, and yet it is part of our soul-design by God to restore rest, balance and health for our lives. This is an area of conviction in my own life, which I must surrender to God every day.
Let me urge you to create and protect solitude in your life by simplifying your daily rhythm. Simplify your schedule. Streamline your visitations. Embrace silence. Exercise prayer and meditation every day. Force yourself to do nothing every day before you’re forced to do so by a medical practitioner.
The results? You will likely find yourself smiling more.
Laughing more. Crying more (in a good way). You might enjoy reading for pleasure, more than sermon preparation. The Word of God might come alive in you again. You might sleep better. You will probably argue less with your spouse and children.
All of these things will translate to one thing: your family and your congregation will find peace in you while they travel through life on a very hectic planet called Earth.
If we want to sing about “peace on earth” and offer its benefits to our fellow sojourners, I think it is fair to say that this Christmas anthem would be regarded as much more credible if it is delivered by Christian leaders who exemplify simplicity, rest and margin in their own lives. I am speaking to my own soul here!
Here’s the good news: simplicity will transform your body, soul and spirit. It will help you become more creative. It will allow you to dream, to envision, and pray with an ear that recognizes God’s voice.
Friends – the people whom you serve need the peace of God more than anything. Allow Jesus to do more through your rested, peace-filled soul, than through your hurried, rushed and weary efforts this Christmas season.