What is the #1 practical indicator of impending pastor failure?
Jeff Jeremiah is the head of our denomination. As such he spends time with a LOT of pastors of all different sized churches. Back in January, Jeff leaned in with me and a group of EPC pastors gathered in Orlando and said something like, ‘I know the #1 indicator that a pastor is ripe for failure, burnout or not finishing well.’ Us pastor dudes respect him a lot, so we waited quietly for him to complete the thought. ‘Vacation. I routinely ask pastors how much of their allotted vacation they take. The ones who don’t take their vacation, and haven’t for some time, are the ones dooming themselves and their flock to a bad ending.’
So that’s why I’m signing off of work (including blogging) for the next week – I’m taking a week of vacation to visit a son who is studying abroad. Friends, whether you are a pastor or not, the Sabbath principles of scripture apply to you – take your vacation. Play and rest are good for your soul. With regularity.
Now let me tell you the two reasons I’m also signing off for a second week away, after the week of vacation (so this blog will chill for a while unless I just post some pictures). They are, in this order: 1. My version of the One Ring. 2. Something Don Miller wrote about writing a better story with your life.
Reason #1: To know me very well is to know that like Samson’s hair and Frodo’s precious ring, the secret talisman to my spiritual health is a half or full day away for silent prayer (usually accompanied by study) every month. In the mountains. During my 20’s several mentors introduced me to the classic Christian giants’ practice of contemplative/silent prayer, meditating on scripture. And my extroverted, peripatetic soul took to such prayer like a swimmer from the Titanic to a life jacket. So I’m taking a once-every-few-years 5 day silent prayer retreat immediately after my week of vacation. I will follow the monastic schedule by ‘praying the hours, ‘ using a few resources, fast during the day, and simply wait and listen for the LORD.
Reason #2: In Don Miller’s book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” he wrote about taking a class on writing movie screenplays, and applying ‘what makes a better story’ in a movie to ‘what makes a better story’ in life. His USC film school professor taught that a movie scene of a man and a woman getting in an epic argument and then making up, while sitting on their couch, is a fine story. But a scene with a man and woman getting in an epic argument and then making up, while on top of, say, Mt Everest (or the Empire State Building) – that’s a better story because it’s a more memorable scene. Since then I have actually prioritized making the scenes of my life more memorable whenever possible. Because why the heck not?
So (using a bit of grant money) I am taking this extended prayer retreat in a sequence of Greek Orthodox monasteries in Meteora, Greece. Here’s a picture of one of them (these are where the ending scenes in the Bond movie ‘For Your Eyes Only’ were filmed in the 80’s):
I go with no particular question or request of the Lord – just to be with him, alone. And to open my Spirit hospitably to what the Lord may have for me in the liturgy, readings, and people I will find in the chapel of each monastery. I will stay in a small lodge at the foot of the mountain range, hike to a different Meteora monastery daily, light a candle for Lake Forest Church as I enter each chapel for the day, and pray my little schedule of prayers, readings, and periods of silence. (for more on Meteora http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteora )
I invite your prayer for me during this time. And rest assured I will pray for you. That you will follow God’s prescription for longevity and fruitfulness in your life by practicing Sabbath-rest weekly and annually. And I will pray for you to find ways to live a better story in your own life this spring, principally by consciously cultivating and enjoying the personal presence of Christ with you at all times and in all things.
“Christ in you, the hope of glory!” Colossians 1:27