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Monday, February 1, 2010

How to slow your life down

by Rick Warren


There have been times when I thought I was too busy to take time off. It

never worked.

Rick Warren


You don’t have to be a prophet to know that technology has ­­made three things happen in the world. It has made the world smaller, more complex, and faster. You live a much faster lifestyle than your parents did. Your children will live an even faster lifestyle than you do.

McDonalds® now offers a fast-track option so you can be billed automatically and shave 15 seconds off getting your burger. I read the other day that people aren’t buying frozen juice as much these days. We simply don’t want to wait for it to thaw!

As you and I know, pastors aren’t immune to these time pressures. With meetings, ever-shrinking sermon preparation, and a crowded pastoral care schedule, our office calendar can stay full if we’re not careful. Then we get home and rush our kids to after-school events, grab a quick dinner, run to the hospital, go home, jump in bed, and hope there are no late-night phone calls.

We can identify with what a USA Today article said about life for many people. “Today people are souped up, stressed out, and over scheduled. In this brave new world boundaries between work and family are disappearing. Everybody is mobile and every moment is scheduled.”

The Bible tells us that hurry and worry and scurry have dramatic negative effects on our life and ministries. If you’re serious about slowing your life down to a more humane pace of life, you’re going to have to make five counter-cultural changes in your lifestyle.

Learn contentment. It starts in the heart. Paul says this about contentment in Philippians 4:12 (NIV): “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” Whether we’re pastors or not, it’s not in our nature to be content. We want life to be different – better. But we can’t slow down our lives unless we start being content with what we have.

Contentment doesn’t mean you don’t want your church to grow. Contentment doesn’t mean you don’t go after your God-given vision for your church. It just means a bigger church won’t make you any happier. Your relationship with Christ is where you find your true joy. Until you come to that conclusion, you won’t slow down.

Obey the fourth commandment. Most of us would bristle if we were told that we were consistently breaking the Ten Commandments. But, pastor, many of us are. Remember, the fourth commandment? We’re to take one day off every week. Are you doing that? For most of us, that’s not Sunday. We’re preaching, meeting with people, and overseeing the worship services – we’re not resting. It doesn’t matter which day it is, but we need a day off.

There have been times when I thought I was too busy to take time off. It never worked. I became more irritated with my family. I became more tired. And I didn’t get as much done. It was so prideful of me to think that what I was doing at that moment was more important than listening to what God said about how he made me.

I live a very fast life. But every Monday I stop and slow down. I’m not available on Monday. I know a pastor who had a member get mad at him because he tried to call him several times on Monday and couldn’t get a hold of him. The pastor said, “Sorry, but that’s my day off.” The member said, “The devil doesn’t take a day off.” And the pastor said, “You’re right. And if I didn’t, I’d be just like the devil.”

Pause and pray before deciding. Stop and pray about the decisions you make on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean you wait a year before deciding something. I’m talking about 10 to 15 seconds. As you sit in an elders meeting or a counseling session, ask “God, what do you want me to do in this instance?”

How does this help you slow down? You’re pausing to get perspective. Perspective is what helps you make wise decisions. Most of us just want to make decisions faster, but it’s perspective that really makes better decisions.

Learn to say no. You can’t keep adding things to your schedule without eliminating some. Every time you add a new activity to your schedule, you need to take something off. Whenever I used to see one of my mentors, Peter Drucker, he would say, “Don’t tell me what new thing you’re doing. Tell me what you’ve stopped doing.” The mark of leadership is knowing what not to do.

Most of us have a hard time saying no to opportunities. So ask yourself two questions every time you’re given a new opportunity.

Is it worth it? With every opportunity you’re given, you need to ask yourself whether it’s worth your energy, effort, reputation, and ultimately, your time. Your time is your life. And you need to decide whether the new opportunity is worth a portion of your life.

What am I going to give up? You can’t just keep adding, adding, and adding. You have to give something up to take hold of an opportunity. What will it be?

Trust God’s timing. Impatience is often why we hurry. It’s simply a lack of trust. When you’re impatient you’re saying, “God, I don’t really trust you. I don’t think you have my best interest at heart. You don’t know when I need it, and I’m in a hurry.” Is fast always better? No. It is not. Not always.

God has a plan for your life. You know that. But he also has a timetable for your life – and a timetable for your church for that matter. Unfortunately, God never explains his timetable. And that can be frustrating! At Saddleback we waited for years to get our own land and our own building. I couldn’t understand God’s timing. But God knew exactly what he was doing. Our church campus is visible from one of the busiest freeways in our community. It was a freeway that didn’t exist when we first started looking for land. That’s God’s timing.

It’s painful when you’re in a hurry and God’s not. But it’s part of maturing, part of growing up. Children have to learn the difference between “no” and “not yet.” God knows the right time and the right way. He has a plan and a timetable.

Ministry is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. God doesn’t want you to burn out. Whether you’re 30 or 70, he doesn’t want to wear you out before he can complete his purposes through you. Learning to slow down might be the most important ministry skill you learn this year.

Six essential commitments for leadership

by Rick Warren

Leaders are always defined by self-imposed standards. I’m not talking about standards set by other people, but standards they set for themselves. Great leaders always expect more from themselves than they do from their followers. They put forth more effort as well. That’s leadership.

If you were to look through the New Testament for the phrase “make every effort,” you’d find it six times. They represent six important vows we need to make as leaders. I believe these six vows will lead to an effective and productive ministry.

Vow to maintain integrity.

“Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14).

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. No one is perfect. To be spotless and blameless means to live with integrity. How do you maintain integrity if you’re not perfect? You need to be transparent. A person of integrity is not claiming to have it all together in every area. On the contrary, the person of integrity is willing to be open about their strengths and weaknesses.

Having integrity also means living what you say you believe. You model what you teach. And you tell the truth, even when it’s tough. All leadership is built on trust. And trust comes from having the reputation for living out what you believe and for telling the truth. As a pastor and leader, people must trust you.

Will you make a commitment to lead with integrity? Will you be honest about both your strengths and weaknesses? Will you commit to living your sermons out every week? Will you tell the truth to those you lead even when it’s tough?

Vow to forgive those who hurt you.

“Make every effort to live in peace with all men. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up” (Hebrews 12:14-15).

Leaders forgive those who hurt them. You will be hurt in ministry. It’s going to happen. It’s a given. You will be hurt both intentionally and unintentionally. You will be hurt by those who recognize what they’re doing and those who don’t. You cannot be in ministry without being hurt. If you call the shots, you’re going to take the shots.

But you’ve got to be willing to forgive those who try to take you down. If you allow bitterness to build, it will choke your heart for God and your love for people until your heart just shrivels.

Will you forgive when every bone in your body wants to retaliate?

Vow to relax and trust God.

“Anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter into God’s rest” (Hebrews 4:11).

If you’re going to be in ministry, you’ve got to learn to relax. You need to be concerned about the people around you, but at the same time, you’re not God. You can’t bear everybody’s burden all the time.

How do you release those burdens? First, you’ve got to pray. Ultimately, God is the one responsible for your flock. He’s the one responsible for the growth of your ministry. Share your burdens with him in prayer.

Then you need to spend some time in God’s Word meditating on his promises. Remember what God has done in the past – in God’s Word and in your own life. God has a good track record of taking care of us. Remember that when you’re tempted to let the stress of your ministry position overwhelm you.

Will you commit to surrendering your stress to God?

Vow to be an encourager.

“Let us make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19).

As a Christian leader, you should build people up rather than tear them down. God has called you to be an encourager, not a discourager. Take the time to look beyond the problems and look at the potential of those you lead. People get discouraged in life; you need to be a source of encouragement.

As pastors, you are dispensers of hope. That’s what it means to be a Christian leader. You bring the hope of Jesus into a hopeless situation. You help people who seem to be helpless. You let them know they can do it.

Will you be a voice of encouragement in your community, in your church, in your home?

Vow to be a peacemaker.

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

Leaders are called to make every effort to reduce conflict. Our society is filled with conflict. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” How do you make peace in such a fragmented society?

You’ve got to deal with different points of view. Not everybody is like you in your church. And that’s good. Everyone has something to contribute. The perspective of those who see the world differently can add something indispensible to your ministry.

At Saddleback we value unity not uniformity. You can walk hand-in-hand without seeing eye-to-eye on every issue. God can overlook lack of programs in your church. He can overlook a lack of ability. But God will not bless a divided church. That means one of your most important jobs is to promote unity. Ten times in the first five chapters of Acts, the Bible says the church was unified. When you have the unity of Acts, you will have the power of Acts.

Will you have the courage to unify your church when it is being pulled in many different directions?

Vow to never stop growing.

“Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive…” (2 Peter 1: 5-8).

Learning is the lifestyle of leadership. The moment you think you know it all, you’re dead in the water. You must never stop growing. Growing ministries require growing leadership. You’ve got to train yourself continually.

Keep reading. Get a mentor. Solicit feedback. Ask questions. Always look for ways to keep growing in your character and your skills. The very nature of leadership is tied to growth. You’ve got to grow if you are going to lead others to grow.

Take a regular look at yourself. Where do you need to grow? What do you need to learn? What’s the best way to get the training you need? Make a learning plan every year. Your future leadership depends upon it.

Will you commit to keep growing as a leader and as a person?

Pastor, leading your church is a great responsibility and a grand privilege. Will you make these six commitments?