All pastors are busy. Some are too busy. I was busier than Jesus.
Now, don't castigate me for blasphemous presumption: how could I could be busier than the Creator of the universe? Well, I am not the only one who has found himself or herself overextended—busier than Jesus. And before you finish reading this article you too may find yourself busier than Jesus.
One thing I have discovered is how easy it is to confuse the urgent with the important. For example, in my pastorate I found that my time was more easily consumed putting out fires than lighting them in the hearts of my people or even in my own heart. Unless intentionally protected, my agenda became so filled with doing good that I failed to do right.
If you couple this reality with a work-ethic model that values activity as a measure of productivity, one thing becomes predestined: "doing" will receive more emphasis than "being." Which, of course, is the crux of the issue. To the extent that my time for personal devotions and spiritual growth gave way to the demands of the urgent, I became busier than Jesus.
Not that Jesus wasn't busy. In fact, when my life is most crowded with crisis and urgent demands, I am just beginning to sense what it must have been to have the people of Palestine constantly crowding Jesus for what they knew He could give them. How easy it would have been for Him to rely on "doing" good more than "being." "In a life wholly devoted to the good of others, the Saviour found it necessary to withdraw from the thoroughfares of travel and from the throng that followed Him day after day. He must turn aside from a life of ceaseless activity and contact with human needs, to seek retirement and unbroken communion with His Father." *
Pastoral overextension is first noted and its negative impact first felt in the pastor's marriage and home. It comes well before most church members perceive its presence. This is because we can mask our lives easier before those with whom we meet and worship for only a few hours weekly than before those with whom we live daily. If I don't pray this week, few of my members may immediately know. But if I don't pray today, my spouse, children, and even my dog will probably feel it tomorrow!
Furthermore, if I want to effect spiritual change in my members, the place to start is in myself. The old adage still holds true—spirituality of members will not grow beyond that of their leaders. In our congregation we tried an intentional yearlong experiment to increase our corporate spirituality. We did this by looking at the roots of spiritual growth—Bible study, prayer, fellowship, witnessing, and obedience. Each one of us looked at the issues in a personal way. My own prayer and study life improved as I admonished my members to progress in these areas. My motive of modeling for them challenged my own spiritual growth.
For 12 months we continued our study and prayer. We encouraged increased fellowship and witness. We reflected on personal obedience to Jesus. We added five more minutes to whatever time we were spending in our spiritual growth activities. At the end of the year we measured our progress by a congregational survey. Eighty-six per cent indicated that they were now more obedient to God's will for their personal lives than they were a year earlier. The methods were simple; the results momentous.
If you find yourself busier than Jesus, I encourage you to investigate experimentally your priorities. Do a self-analysis on the urgent and the important, the doing and the being. Find for yourself that personal spirituality increases as you focus on being about your Saviour' s business.
* Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages
(Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1940),
pp. 362, 363.