We are living in a day and age where everything seems to be about speed and noise. The flow of modern life has moved from fast to faster seemingly overnight. Many of us are aware that our 21st Century lives have somehow got stuck in 5th gear. I am the first to admit that I cannot remember the last time I even heard the sound of my microwave’s timer going off as it ends its cooking cycle! I find that I don’t’ even have the patience to wait for the microwave at times let alone people, ministry, and the community around me. What has gone wrong in our lives that we have so willingly given up our quality of life, and quality of relationships, for the sake of speed? Personally, I have realized over the past few years how much the move from the microwave to the crockpot blesses me and blesses others. Just comparing a microwave vs. crockpot meal leads you to see how much greater the flavors and foods are when they have had time to marinate. We will find the same kind of richness, and depth, in our life and leadership as well when we move from the microwave pace to the crockpot. With that said I should confess that I am still in process on this as I feel like I have learned how to run in 5th gear, shut the engine off (for rest), but not how to run in gears 2-4 yet. That is where God is working the most right now in my life. Vocationally, I am not a sociologist, but a missiologist and pastor whose first role in life is that of Christ follower. I won’t attempt to break down what has happened in society to bring us to this point, but instead point us to the timeless, and transforming truths, taught by Christ that are helping me to embrace Christ’s vision of living and leadership.
What is Christ’s vision of living and leadership? He summed it up as loving God and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). This grand vision for living calls us to focus on our relationships with God, with one another, and with ourselves. To do this requires slowing down because as we all know healthy relationships are built on trust, which takes time and transparency. Recently, I watched a movie with my kids called Nine Lives which features Kevin Spacey (great actor) as a highly successful businessman that works fast and furiously while failing in all the relationships surrounding him. In the movie, his phone was a constant companion that connected him to work, but distracted and disconnected him from the people he loved. Ironically, my phone was on during the movie and I received calls, texts, and social media notices that showed me how easily I too could slip into the same trap.
What is the solution? A life that is centered on Christ, rooted in community, and focused on success over time, not overnight. The brilliant pastor and author Eugene Peterson has described this kind of life as, “a long obedience in the same direction”. This simple phrasing provides us with a much needed counter view and alternative (if you like the word “revolutionary” insert it here) to the view of contemporary culture. We may evaluate ourselves by comparing our life, leadership, and ministries to the size and scope of others, but Christ does not. His view is based on how we serve and steward with what we have been given (Matthew 25) not just in our generation, but from generation to generation (Acts 13:36 and Hebrews 11). I have had the honor of learning this concept in the ministries I serve in with Overflow Church (www.overflowchurch.org) and Mosaic CCCDA (www.mosaicccda.com) over the past 9-years. The pace of our growth has been slow and steady and has left me often discontent and discouraged. Through the slow growth process, though, I have found greater health and healthier relationships with those in our ministry and our community. The transformation process has touched us and is now touching our community in ways we have always longed for, but can only experience today because of love’s work over a period of time.
This doesn’t mean that fast growth is bad, it just needs to be balanced and prioritized. Ultimately God wants us all to grow and bear fruit (John 15:5-8) for His glory. We just need to adjust and to live and lead with a pace that helps those experiencing the growth (including us) to grow in their love of God, their love of one another, and their love for themselves. Here are a few next step questions to consider with this concept of “slow and steady” as successful:
- What is your current view of success and how might you need to adjust its focus and timeline?
- How would you summarize the meaning and focus of life? The past few years studying Scripture (in particular Ecclesiastes and Hebrews 11) has led me to summarize it: 1) be faithful, 2) be obedient, and 3) enjoy the journey. How are you doing with these three?
- What would it mean for you to press into loving God, loving your neighbor, and loving yourself in this season? How would a slow and steady pursuit of this transform your life?
- What steps do you need to take to slow down flow and pace of life around you? How might new boundaries with calls, texts, social media, etc.?
- If relationships only build trust overtime, then how do you need to change your allocation of time to build trust with those you lead and with the community you live in?
- Are you trying to microwave your ministry? How might a crockpot pace, and a long obedience in the same direction, lead to even greater impact and transformation?
For similar thoughts on life, leadership, and ministry you can connect with Brian D. Bennett at: www.briandbennett.org