Take Time To Be Holy

Are we really all too busy to spend time with God?  I was in a situation recently where one group was bashing another group and I innocently asked if they had ever gotten together to pray.  You might have thought I suggested they mate with animals.  The idea that we “waste” time praying with “those” people was reprehensible.  Now, if I suggested they get together to debate and fight, that would have been fine.  We have plenty of time for that.  In another setting I was speaking to a group of colleagues about personal devotions.  To a person, each lamented that they simply didn’t have time; they were too busy for prayer, devotional reading, contemplation and reflection, worship apart from that which they led.  This morning, I find myself feeling the same — too much on the plate to take care of my own spiritual, physical or emotional needs.  What’s wrong with us?

Preachers sometimes forget that their actions are as important as their words.  What we model is every bit as powerful as what we say.  Clergy are above the national norm in obesity, stress related illness and disease, fatigue, and a host of other dysfunctions and disabilities.  Is this the life of glory we invite others to?  I’m not judging anyone beyond myself.  I’m working 70 hour weeks, am significantly overweight, and suffer chronic pain.  I am a poster child for what NOT to do and be.  Yet, I do maintain a morning ritual of prayer, reading, quiet, and writing (some of it ending up here, like today).  I hold onto a slim discipline that I find necessary and very valuable.  Without it I would be in big trouble.  And I guess it is from this perspective that I wonder how spiritual leaders can function without some spiritual nurture and regular practice.  Where do they draw the energy from?  What well feeds their soul?  What replenishes them when they give and give, yet receive nothing themselves?  I think it is a sad and dangerous situation.  It explains a lot of the burnout and stress.  When I did the clergy morale study a few years ago, almost two-thirds of the pastors were on mood-enhancing drugs.  Over ninety percent were on some form of medication for stress or blood pressure.  Only 21% had a regular prayer/devotional life.

If clergy are too busy for God, they are too busy, period.  We cannot preach that we refuse to practice.  We cannot judge those too busy for church when we are too busy with church.  We need to hold one another accountable to healthy and centered practices (rather than payment of apportionments and increased worship attendance).  We need to remember who we are and get our priorities in order.  Make room for God.  Take time to be holy.

11 replies

  1. Dan, as usual your honesty and your awareness of what is needed for United Methodists to grow spiritually has helped challenge and help me. Thank you.

  2. Dan, I think that the temptation in this is to preach about instead of from. To preach with words that do not mesh with actions about some perceived need instead of from an experience of pain or practice. To “preach at” instead of to worship with in daily living and being. Thanks for the push to continue.

  3. Lay folks are not off the hook here, just because Dan is focusing on clergy in the latter portion of this post. If the church is truly to change it will have to be pushed along by the laity. Too many laity get burned out as well because others won’t step up and help. IF we can divide the work more justly we can ALL have more time for God.

  4. As a lifetime Methodist laity who hit the “edge of the abyss”, wondering where God was, I am starting to push for more accountabliity/expectations of members as to is what is needed to truly walk the talk and also give laity the feeling that they are extremely important in the ministry, can accomplish something and have a say in defining who the church is. Although I am at “the bottom of the heap”, I have also had the realization that water starts boiling on the bottom. Amazingly enough, I was handed a means of introducing the concept of accountability to the entire congregation, in writing, and to date it is sprouting wings and is taking flight–amazing what a lowly typist can accomplish–I feel more effective in this role than as a committee member. The word “community” is also a new favorite term of mine. You have been a huge motivator.

  5. Agreed. I attened Faith Alive a week ago and the Bishop talked about the importance of Sabbath – taking time for ourselves in relationship with God. It is not only clergy who suffer. As a lay person who has served in choir and taught Sunday School, I get home from church and certainly do NOT feel as though I have had a Sabbath.
    I consider taking time for prayer, reading, meditation the same as tithing. I set aside my tithe before I pay any other bills. I find I do not suffer financially by doing it this way. The same with my time. My prayer/devotion/study/meditation time is first thing in the morning. I MAKE time for it and therefore I do it!

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