This year I find myself feeling more tired more often. At the beginning of the year, I thought it was grief from my mother’s passing in Oct 2021. Then I had COVID in May, and, when that was over, I thought it might be long-COVID. But maybe all that it is, is my body reminding me that I am a few years short of 70 and need to respect my stage in life.
Of course there is the perennial struggle with over-commitment, taking on too many ministry commitments. I shared my struggles with a younger ministry colleague a few days ago and he said he has the same struggles with over-commitment. He had concluded that the issue wasn’t so much time management, but ego management. It was the first time I had encountered the term, though a little research revealed that this was a term in use in management literature usually with warnings like “If you don’t manage your ego, it will manage you”.
What my colleague said struck a chord. It reminded me of what Eugene Peterson had said.
I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself—and to all who will notice—that I am important.
Coupled with this is a messiah complex that acts on the belief that only we can effectively minister in a given situation. It doesn’t help that those who invite you also frame the situation in terms that imply that only you can meet their needs.
The temptation to say “yes” to all your invitations is compounded by the fact that we are in ministry because we want to help people. It is very hard to turn people down. After a while, you become addicted to ministry. You get hooked on the need to be needed and, like any addiction, it is hard to overcome and often you are in denial about being addicted.
Jesus is our model for how to deal with the many demands of ministry.
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mk 1:35–38 NIV)
Jesus was not need driven. Although there were many needs where He was and His reputation was growing, He said “no” to Capernaum when He was to say “yes” to Galilee. And He could do this because He was God directed, not need directed.
Of course I have known the above for forever. I preach on it often. But I am still struggling to live by the principle of being God directed and not need directed, and therefore having the courage to say both “yes” and “no” to ministry invitations. Well, the fact is one day my answer will definitely be “no”, because it’ll be time to leave this world. No one is indispensable. Might as well get into the practice of saying “no”.