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When pastoring is your job, it adds complexity to simply loving Jesus.  To live and lead from a healthy soul, we must learn the art of separating our own personal pursuit of loving Jesus from our “ministry” of leading in the church.  

Over my 40+ years of ministry, there are two practices that have the most difference in my pursuit to love Jesus well.

1. Create unhurried space to “be” with God.

Creating space is about time.  Being unhurried is about temperament.  I can’t tell you how many times I have carved out time to be with God but found myself distracted, restless, and pre-occupied.  

It is the sacred place of unhurried space that I turn my eyes from results to relationship.  It is in unhurried space that I meet God as simply a person, not as a pastor.  It is in the quiet, unhurried spaces where God speaks the clearest and does some of his deepest work.  The flip side is also true.  One of the biggest barriers to us going deeper with God is the excessive busyness and clutter of our lives.  Speaking to this issue, Pete Scazzero says

“Bearing fruit requires slowing down long enough to give Jesus direct access to every aspect of our lives and our leadership.”

Or, in the words of Dallas Willard “Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.  You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

Early in my ministry, I would have been puzzled by Willard’s statement.  Hurry is the sign of a person on the move, a person who is hustling!  People in a hurry are people on a mission.  Hurry is the symbol of progress.  Hurry is reflective of kingdom urgency.  After all, time is short.  How can we NOT be in a hurry?

But now, after forty years of ministry, I understand why Willard singled out the issue of hurry.  Hurry and busyness have usually been a subversive diversion in my life.  They are intoxicating and often applauded by others.  They have kept the adrenalin flowing and propped up my sense of importance while robbing me of the intimacy with God that my soul longs for.

Creating unhurried space doesn’t always mean blocking large chunks of time on my calendar.  It is more about being present and relaxed in moments dedicated to being with God.

Practically, this means taking control of our calendar and prioritizing times with God.  This could take the form of morning time with God to start your day, prayer, Sabbath, dedicated times of silence and solitude, personal and team retreat, a soul care day, etc.

The second fundamental practice that has been helpful is:

2. Integrating authentic spiritual practices into my life.

This is both about habit and heart. Spiritual habits without heart leads to hypocrisy and legalism.  Think Pharisees.  Heart without habit leads to inconsistent growth and dependence on emotional experiences.

It is in the convergence of heart and habit that spiritual transformation takes place.

Geoff Dyer insightfully says “Your deepest desire is the one manifested by your daily life and habits.”  In other words, no matter what you espouse verbally, or what worship songs you sing on Sunday, your deepest longings and deepest desires are revealed by your daily habits.  

I have found that the older I get the easier it is to get sloppy with my spiritual training.  I can begin to live off yesterday’s manna or my years or ministry experience. 

Have you noticed that often in life it is our love that follows the development of a habit, not the other way around.

I don’t have an intellectual knowledge and an emotional love for exercising.  It is the consistent habit of exercising over time that creates desire and enjoyment.  

The same is true spiritually.  It is the authentic (heart), consistent practice (habit) of Scripture memory, meditation, daily office, Bible study, Sabbath, Lectio Divina, prayer, silence, solitude, fasting, etc, that God uses to transform us and deepen our love for him.

Deuteronomy 30 is a wonderful chapter where God generously offers to the people of Israel an amazing life of blessing.  It is a rich passage.

In the first part of the final verse in the chapter, the people are challenged with the words….

"Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him." 

The key to experiencing this amazing life that God offers is to be intentional about pursuing our relationship with God.  We are admonished to love, listen and hold fast to him.  

That, my friend, is your highest calling.  And that is the greatest gift you can give your church.  But the passage doesn’t end there.  The next six words are the pinnacle of the entire chapter.

"For the Lord is your life..."

Let those words wash over you for a moment.  He doesn’t say “for your ministry is your life.” He doesn’t even say “your family is your life.”  You see, someday your ministry is going to go away. Someone else will move into your office and they will throw your business cards in the trash.  No matter how “successful” you have been, someday the spotlight will shift to someone else.  But if you have been pursuing Jesus and He is your life… it will be ok.  Because your relationship with him transcends your role, your position, your title, your platform, and your ministry.

For. the. Lord. is. your. LIFE.

Lance is the founder of Replenish ministries and is often referred to as a Pastor’s Pastor.  He is also the author of the book Replenish, which is dedicated to helping leaders live and lead from a healthy soul.  Before launching Replenish, Lance served 20 years as a senior pastor and 6 years as an Executive/Teaching pastor at Saddleback Church. 

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