Re-Ordering My Life

Re-Ordering My Life

About a month ago I was persuaded by my wife and my doctor to take 4 weeks off work after an 18 month battle with a severe intestinal illness (ongoing). I was feeling tired, jaded, depressed and a bit fed up with being in ministry. This is my thirteenth year and most, if not all, of my time has been served in difficult inner city scenarios. The last 8 years have been particularly hardcore. I was and had been looking to ‘change direction’ and maybe consider other options outside of the ‘ministry’.

Church planting, indeed most inner city ministry, can be a thankless task, and the pressure of ‘incarnational’ ministry, whilst looking good on paper and in theory, can at times be all-consuming. Couple this with the strain of church life anyway, outside influences and tensions within the team and you have a recipe for ‘burnout’. I was feeling close to the precipice. However, Miriam (my wife) persuaded me to take the time for some prayerful reflection from the basis of a more settled state of mind and to leave any decisions about our future until after I had had some real rest.

So, I returned from my period ‘off’ and came up with the following:

1. I used the time off to stabilise my medication intake, particularly painkillers. This has made me feel much more alert and less lethargic.

2. I have returned to running 10km a day, at least 5 days a week and this has helped me (a) mentally (b) physically and (c) spiritually. I run early in the morning for an hour with my iPod on. I am currently going through the Bible in a year and I get the opportunity to listen to great Christian Music (Sovereign Music), as well as the chance to prayerfully reflect and think. It has revolutionised my spiritual life and, whilst hasn’t taken the pain away, it has left me feeling much more positive.

3. I have made sure that I am prioritising my family as I should. So, teatimes are our family devotions and the time we get to talk to one another about our day and pray for family and friends. During this time the phone is switched off and they have my full attention.

4. I have made sure that I priorities my time with Miriam. Friday night is our time together and, again, the phone is switched off, or she has it in her bag.

5. I am making more time for doing things that relax me. So, for instance, I love to write, and so I have returned to my writing after a 2 year break. Recently, Miriam encouraged me to go to the Lake District for 4 days for a ‘writers retreat’ and I have to say that it was one of the best times I have had for years and years. I didn’t worry about the ministry once and I came back feeling inspired and rested. Coupled with that I have started this blog which I find immensely stimulating and helpful. Often, I can’t sleep at night and so I spend time writing and then post at various times throughout the day (for those wondering where I get the time to do it).

6. I have met with my elders to discuss sharing out the responsibilities of ministry more. This means me letting go of the reins, and not feeling it all rests on me (pride). This has been helpful and the two men I have serving with me at the moment are very good and supportive. They are holding me accountable to these measures.

7. I am seeking out some mature men in the ministry who will also help me to maintain a balance in my life by keeping me accountable. I have a couple of men in mind but have yet to approach them.

8. I am going to make more space in my diary to read.

9. I am going to ensure that I have a regular day off (Friday) and that I don’t go near my phone or the blog. Andy Constable, one of my assistants may blog on this day in my place. He’s not as witty as me, but give him a chance!

10. I am scaling down our Ministry Team and the number of interns we have with us in order to stabilise and build on our current structures.

11. I have temporarily suspended any new ministry ideas as we assess and reflect what we are currently doing and the effectiveness of each area. This will be the toughest one to see through!

In all of this I have to be flexible to the needs of my church and the local community. But I realise that I am only of benefit to them when I am firing on all cylinders. People have emergencies and life isn’t all diaries and personal plans out here. But I am giving it a shot. I am relying on my wife and close friends to give me good and helpful feedback. Pray for me.