Balancing Life and Ministry, Part 2 by Jim & Tamara Graff

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In our last blog, we began to share the five keys we’ve discovered to balancing life and ministry. This is critical to every leader because if the “why we do” is lost, the “what we do” becomes a burden. We shared that our calling keeps enthusiasm alive, so it’s important that we write down our objectives, those goals that we believe God has placed on our hearts. Then we develop an action plan so that we don’t overextend ourselves or get involved in too many things that are “off-topic” for our calling.

It took this kind of organization for us to enjoy life and ministry. Part of that came down to our commitment to a third key of balancing life and ministry: that the Sabbath is a gift from God to us.

Jesus said the Sabbath was made for men. It’s not a suggestion; it’s a command, and it’s a gift. We love what God communicated to Moses in Exodus 31:16-17, “The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever…” Let’s talk about these three important insights God shared with Moses in this passage:

First, our day off should feel like a celebration. Sometimes as soon as service is over, we head for the beach. It’s celebration time. 

Second, we have a time slot to do work like house projects or managing our retirement fund, because the Bible says to do no regular work on the Sabbath, and that’s not regular work for us. It’s work we celebrate. We only get to do those things because God is blessing us.

Third, we must keep the Sabbath as a celebratory time because if we don’t celebrate what God is doing weekly in our families, the generations to come will probably pursue pleasure and purpose in a wrong way. All people seek pleasure and purpose, and God wants us to teach our generations to find it in Him.

In fact, that is the final thing our scripture communicates: the Sabbath is to be a sign. The Hebrew word for sign means “a monument.” When we don’t celebrate the Sabbath, celebrate what God is doing in and for us, it’s a sure sign we need to slow down. We know a lot of pastors who don’t take Sabbaths. You can tell that they don’t. You get grumpy when you’re tired!

So we’ve learned that balancing life and ministry starts with clear objectives and a clear action plan, but we receive a test every week on the Sabbath. A celebratory Sabbath is the sign we are doing what’s necessary to live a blessed, balanced life.

Pastors who struggle to plan or their temperament isn’t that way, we understand. But as a pastor, you’re not going to do something super sinful, you’re not going to do something horrible, you’re not going to cuss out the person at McDonald’s when you should bless them with your words, right? But when you begin to see that wrong use of your time as a sin, it gets so much easier to take a Sabbath. Remember Ephesians 5, “Be very careful how you live and redeem the time.” Redemption means something’s been stolen. Get your time back so God can do the things He’s been dreaming of doing in and through you.  

Here’s the question: When does Sabbath start, and when does it end? For us it starts after church, or 4 o’clock, until Tuesday morning. That’s our Sabbath. We take 24 hours totally off. In Israel it starts Friday night at twilight, until Sunday morning when you wake up. You’ll be amazed how much more refreshed you feel when you start honoring the Sabbath!

That brings us to the fourth key: We must celebrate our small wins monthly. Look quickly at  Psalm 81:3 (ESV), “Blow the trumpet at the new moon . . . on our feast day.” We both like good parties with fellowship and food. This verse was an eye-opener for us. God ordained new moons in scripture just as He did the Sabbath, but no one talks much about that one! God said, “I want you to do two things: Blow the trumpet and feast.” We are to celebrate what God’s doing through our obedience and right priorities. Now we look forward to a special celebration every month.

We have learned that we need to celebrate our small wins because, if not, we start getting tired, we start getting burned out. We work hard-six days a week. But not six days and nights. We make sure we set aside quiet time with God, exercise time, and time to enjoy each other’s company every day. Sometimes we enjoy the company of family and friends too. But if it feels like a work meeting, it doesn’t count. Our monthly celebration is a time we recognize that as we let God guide our attitudes and actions, our outcomes become better.

That brings us to our fifth key in balancing life and ministries. It’s the truth that we need each other. We’re not supposed to do life alone, as ministers, as people.  

I love this African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” To experience the full blessing of ministry, we must balance family well. Those are the people who naturally care deeply for us. And they celebrate our successes too, because our successes have a huge effect on their lives too. Success alone isn’t enough to satisfy our hearts. Relationships are required too.

In Exodus 18:13-20, Moses’ father-in law spoke to him. He said, “What is this you are doing for the people?” Moses answered, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.” And his father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. Teach them His decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behaveThen appoint leaders over them.”

Moses’ father-in-law cared about his daughter having a good husband and his grandkids having a good father. When we prioritize good friendships, they help us pay attention to everything that matters. Good relationships make such a difference!

Proverbs 27:19 (TLB) tells us, “A mirror reflects a man’s face, but what he is really like is shown by the kind of friends he chooses.” The state of our friendships reflects the condition of our heart. The Bible says that iron sharpens iron just as a person sharpens their friend. Iron is the same material, and we can tell when we’re with people of the same material as us. There are some people that you’re going to spend 5 minutes with them and you’re going to feel like you spent hours. Some people you spend hours with them, and it feels like minutes. That last group, God’s in that!

That’s what we want for Significant Church. We want pastors to find the resources they need for relationships that they enjoy.  Whether it’s an XChange, where pastors in their region come together and start caring about each other, or through a webinar, which really began because of the powerful times of conversation we had over dinner with other pastors, we just want to see pastors find balance and make friendships that  will cause them to think, “We’re better together.”

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