Are you weary? Exhausted? Too busy to even notice how weary and exhausted you are? Many Christian leaders feel this way, especially in this past year. Jesus teaches us about setting the right pace in leadership.
Leadership comes with time pressure. The world is ever more complex and lived at an ever-increasing pace. Technology means that leaders are “on call” 24/7, responding to phone calls, emails, texts, social media and so on.
The impact of the COVID-19 Coronavirus global pandemic is that these pressures have increased, as leaders have battled with a sudden change in landscape and ways of working.
If you are anxious, busy, stressed, troubled or weary, you are not alone.
Jesus Speaks into Our Busyness
In the midst of our tiredness, in the midst of our anxiety, busyness, stress and weariness, Jesus speaks, willing to teach us to walk at his pace:
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”Matthew 11:28-30 (New Living Translation)
Jesus promises rest. But that does not mean doing nothing (or at least, not for too long!). Because he also says, “Take my yoke upon you.” He still has work for us to do.
As you probably know, a yoke is what a farmer uses to connect two animals together to a plough. The yoke ensures the two animals walk together in the same direction and in the same speed.
A yoke signifies work. The animals have work to do. But Jesus says the yoke is his. We are yoked to him. We should be working at his direction and at his pace. He should be setting the right pace in our leadership.
How can we ensure this is the case in our own ministry? Let me suggest three ways:
Observe a Sabbath
God decreed that his people should observe the Sabbath as holy day, set apart for him. Jesus declared himself Lord of the Sabbath. It is clear that the Sabbath remains a gift of God to the people he created.
So Christian leaders should be taking at least one day off a week. Sunday, for most of us, cannot be our Sabbath, because we’re working: preaching, leading worship, speaking with people, and many other things. We are certainly not resting!
God understands that it doesn’t matter what day it is, but we need one day off every week.
Sometimes, we feel far too busy to do this. But I have noticed that I become much less like Jesus when I fail to take time off. I become irritable, and – ironically – less productive.
If we want to be setting the right pace in our leadership, we need to observe a Sabbath.
Set Some Boundaries
“If you want something done well, ask a busy person,” goes the phrase. As an effective leader, it is inevitable you will be asked to do more and more. The more you prove yourself in leadership, the more people want to tap into your skills.
But we all have only 168 hours each week. So inevitably, we cannot keep saying “yes” to things without saying “no” to something else. Most of us have a hard time saying “no” to people and new opportunities. But I am learning that the mark of effective leadership is knowing what not to do.
If we are passionate about setting the right pace in our leadership, then we need to learn to taking something off our schedule when we add something new to it.
How do we know what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to or take off our schedule? In God’s presence, ask “is it worth it?” Is what you are being asked to do worth your time and energy and effort. And then ask God, “what do you want me to give up?” If we’re going to do leadership at his pace and in his direction, then we need to be willing to ask him what he wants us to give up as well as accepting the new opportunities he opens up to us.
Pause and Pray
This is about being yoked to Jesus. It is about leading at his pace and in the direction he sets. So how do we ensure we are yoked to him at all times? By pausing and praying about the decisions we make on a regular basis.
They only need to be “arrow prayers.” God, what do you want me to do next? Should I say yes to this? I sense I should be saying no to this person. Am I right?
Pausing and praying this way helps me to slow down. I have a few moments to reflect and get some perspective. It helps us make wise decisions. How many times do we make a quick decision we regret later on as it adds to our busyness?
Yield to Jesus’ Pace
I pray that each of us will ensure that Jesus is setting the right pace in our leadership. I pray he will help us to step out of our busyness, our anxiety and our weariness, into his gentle yoke, as we work in his direction and at his pace. Take his words into your day today:
28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)