Finding Rest in a Workaholic World

When we do not provide ourselves with opportunities for rest, we simply cannot effectively accomplish the work God has laid out for us.

It amazes me just how often I hear from church planters and ministers alike about how tired they are and in need of a day or two of rest. Is rest for you the mere inactivity that results in sitting still? Are you able to find adequate time for rest? Do you find yourself living in the hurried and harried world of just too much to get done?

To be sure, church planting is a run far, run fast endeavor during the first few years of launching the new work. But those daily workaday habits that are necessary to launch a new church become, for many church planters, the new norm. Godly ministers feel stuck in a rut and families miss out on valuable bonding time that is much needed for children and spouses.

The simple truth is that none of us can be at our best when we do not provide ourselves sufficient opportunities for rest. For most ministers, whether you are a church planter or some other form of ministry professional, rest is a spiritual journey and the lack of it might cause us to become out of balance, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Real self-sustaining rest is a whole lot more than a break from life’s hustle and bustle. Jesus even challenged His disciples when He said:

“Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 HCSB).

We live in a day where somehow corporate mentalities of seven in the morning to six at night are the only barometer. Having just seen our first child graduate from college and hearing his words to me less than two weeks ago—“Thanks, Dad, for taking the time to watch me grow up instead of being at work all the time”—spoke to me about the importance of making and taking the time to rest and be with your family! Wow!

Am I still doing this for my last child? Have I let Christian corporate America infiltrate God’s standards as a father and as a minister? I hope not, but to be sure I am writing this article from one who has been at times on both sides of this equation. The older I get, the less I believe that God will significantly honor any of us who sacrifice our family for the cause of ministry. He seldom blesses churches, ministry groups, and dare I say, even para-church organizations who lapse into Christian workaholism.

Church planters and all who work in the ministry are often prone to follow an unwritten set of rules that say that we must put in a colossal number of hours so that no one will ever think we’re not working hard enough. What have we become? Where is the energy to drive one’s creative juices if we are just punching a clock to say we are working hard enough?

Now granted, for most of us we really do not want anyone to doubt our commitment and our sacrifice to God’s ministry. I am just like the majority of ministers who wish to be known as diligent, hardworking servants of the Master. If someone questions our commitment to ministry, our instinctive response is, “I’ll show you,” and we try to add even more hours to our hectic schedules.

Many of us being church planters with entrepreneurial natures would rather burn out than rust out. Do we feel a little flow of energy circulate through our bodies when someone commends us or compliments us on how hard we work? Do we feel challenged as a result of that to do more? It is a struggle, is it not? All of us who are called and set apart by the Father desire to be more like Jesus, and to offer up our lives as “living sacrifices.” So when could our fervor become our problem?

Here are some positive ideas that speak to the heart of our need for developing patterns of rest as church planters:

1. Build your life based on balanced, biblical principles concerning rest.

Rest is found all over the Scripture, Old and New Testament alike. The Bible declares, on the seventh day God rested. As mentioned earlier, even Jesus told His disciples: “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 HCSB).

The psalmist very clearly instructs us in Psalm 46, “Be still, and know…” If we are building our lives on balanced, biblical principles concerning rest, we will need to cultivate times to be still in the presence of our loving Father. Being still is really a prerequisite to knowing. The background for this passage, you might remember, is possibly the assault of the Assyrians. The battering rams of Sennacherib’s army had overpowered everything in their path! The psalmist says, “the earth trembles and the mountains topple” (Psalm 46:2 HCSB). We can see the noise of the writer’s world. He says, in essence, the best way to find God as our refuge and strength is to “be still and know.” Even the life of Jesus demonstrates the need to periodically get away and rest in solitude (see Mark 1:35).

2. God’s desire for you and me is that we develop a love relationship with Him.

It is easy to get our purposes messed up. My Father reminds me, and perhaps He is reminding you through this article, that none of us have anything to prove. He knows me and He knows you. He loves me and He loves you! He will use me and He will use you to accomplish His will if we are obedient to Him and His Word. When I get to heaven I seriously doubt that God is going to show me that I had a few extra hours in my calendar where I could have scheduled a meeting!

Our calendars are full and we are living at a frantic pace where it becomes harder to hear the voice of God. One morning a few days ago, I was reading my Bible and came across a “be still” passage. That is God’s admonishment to you and to me. I heard Henry Blackaby on CD this week and one of the things that spoke to me clearly was the reminder that God is more concerned with the time we spend with Him than He is with the number of hours we work each day. Doesn’t that hit the Christian workaholic hard?

3. Model a balanced life before your family and friends.

When I go home to be with my family at the end of a day, how am I doing with carving out significant time for my loved ones? Are we often just so worn out that time with the family seems like a burden? I have heard the quality time versus quantity time metaphor used by so many ministers it is alarming. Our spouses and our kids want quantity time. The quality blurb is just window dressing. As church planters, it is extremely important that we remain connected with those who have sacrificed more than anyone else in our church planting journey. All of us need to make it a point to prioritize family time. It is our responsibility as spiritual leaders to nurture the relationships within our family. We all need to carve out regular days off from the work of ministry for personal relaxation and family fun with both spouse and kids.

There will always be more work to do and more ministry to accomplish as a church planter. We may think that if we work a little longer and a little harder we will eventually get ahead, but it just does not happen. There will always be more to do, so balance in our lives is vital. This balance needs to include times for personal development with our heavenly Father. Resting includes moments daily with the Master so He can guide, instruct, and fashion our lives. Making time off a priority by regularly scheduling it models for your family of faith the importance of getting away to rest and recharge.

4. Stop trying to prove how hard you work.

Many ministers run around with a full day of activities and yet the majority of the congregation members you serve will never really understand what you do every day or how hard you work. Ministry work includes many tasks that the majority will never think about as part of your day. Whether your church members get it or not, just keep ministering and God will give the blessing. Try not to become resentful when new members do not understand why as a church planter you are not in the office much, but instead are out connecting, developing, witnessing, and gathering individuals from the area God has called you to reach.

Often we push ourselves beyond our limits in our effort to feel better about ourselves. Paul the apostle reminded us that work is honorable and desirable and it is part of God’s plan (see 1 Thess. 2:9). But work does not make us persons of worth. I believe personally that my worth and your worth as a church planter and minister comes from the One in whose image we have been created. Forget spending time proving your worth! Instead, keep sharing about the One who is worthy! In the end that is what God has called us to do—to keep sowing the seeds of the gospel. Keep harvesting from the fields white for harvest. The Holy Word of God describes Jesus as having a “name that is above every name” (Phil. 2:9). My name and your name may not be above every name but they are a name. Our value comes not from the number of hours we work or do not work, but from the One who created us.

Wrapping It Up

Church planter, commit this to memory: You are the one who must schedule a day of rest and take it! Rest is a very natural part of life. Prioritizing time away for rest and family will prove to be an excellent decision for you, your church, and your family. Ample time must be allowed for our bodies to restore the vitality diminished by our work. Ignoring these demands will result in our physiological system eventually failing, no matter how well written our church constitution is.

By resting at least one or two days a week you will find the strength and vigor to accomplish more in the other five or six days set aside for ministry. Rest is to be claimed, practiced, and appreciated. If we ignore it, we will discover feelings of fatigue, frustration, anger, and loneliness beginning to creep in. Keep your soul, mind, will, and spirit refreshed in the Lord of the harvest. You will be glad that you did!

Tom Cheyney
Tom is the co-author of Spin-Off Churches (B&H Publishers), a conference speaker and a frequent writer on church planting, new church health, and church revitalization.