Church can be a busy place, where there’s always something going on. If it isn’t focus on the vacation Bible school, it’s missions trip. You name it. We need to have concern about the health of the church. We’re called to be faithful in serving our communities and those God has placed under our care. How we go about it can be rewarding. But, it is not without challenge. One of those challenges is not in the work itself but how we manage ourselves, as individuals.
Others Before Ourselves
We know that we’re challenged to prefer others before ourselves. But this is never at our expense. This may sound a little out of whack. Some might even consider this heretic but bear with me.
Putting others before ourselves doesn’t mean neglecting ourselves. Many in ministry have suffered emotional and mental trauma they didn’t need to. I’m not downplaying the reality of a lack of mental health of those serving in the church. Neither am I condemning those who are or have struggled. My hope is that we don’t have to suffer things we don’t have to. That our work, though always easy, can be a source of great joy.
Coming back to the “others before ourselves”. There’s an unhealthy was of doing it. There’s also a healthy putting ourselves before others. This is when we focus on our own wellness. In part, it means that we’re in shape to serve those in our communities and beyond. When we’re unwell we can’t serve others well. Our mental, emotional, physical and relational health is an important part of our ministry.
The first responsibility of every Christ follower is his / her own well-being. When we’re healthy in our own relationship with God we’re better able to be of use to God and others. I’m not suggesting that we need to be perfect. No one is perfect and can have everything together.
I’m suggesting that we pay attention to being whole in our own lives. It means that we don’t neglect our own well-being.
Most of this is not new. In fact, you might be able to do a better job at communicating this than I am right now. But, there is a reason we sometimes read, “Remember…”, in the Bible. Sometimes we forget not in a lack of knowledge but practice, and we need reminders.
If we’re not careful, the Bible can become a ministry tool more than daily bread for our own livelihood. It is easy to fall in the trap of engaging Scripture when putting together a sermon or Bible study material. While it is a ministry tool, it is and must also be our personal sustenance.
There’s a reason safety briefings on aeroplanes tell us to put on own oxygen masks before others. How can the unhealthy bring others to health? How can the weak strengthen others? How can the empty fill others? Again, this doesn’t mean we can’t help others when we are or feel weak. I’m saying we must take care of ourselves.
Neglecting time in the Word, silence and solitude and prayer in our personal lives destroys more than our own lives. It will, in the end, impact those we’re meant to serve.
There’s wisdom in Paul’s instruction to Timothy. Paul said anyone who wanted to be a leader needed to demonstrate that in their home, first. One of the things this speaks of, is someone who didn’t neglect his own family to take care of others. Besides that neglect of family is bad in itself, it would also be a bad witness. Take care of your family, be a good friend and be a great human to your neighbors.
This is one of the most neglected aspects of self-care. It is easy to point out destructive habits in other people’s lives and overlook our own. I’ve been guilty of not being a great steward of my body. Eating the right food and exercise are some of the things that go out the window first, especially when we’re busy. Again, this affects my ability to serve others. We’re useless to our communities if we’re not in good health.
Technology has made doing some things easier. It has become a more efficient hamster wheel. And, the by-product has been doing more and faster. This makes rest that much more of a discipline. Jesus teaches us that there’s a way of living. There is a healthy pace of work. We must be careful that we don’t mistake and communicate rest as laziness.
Rest is important and must be in the calendar. It can’t be an afterthought. We serve better out of rest. For staff and volunteers in the church, it is easy for church life to become one event after another. It is important for leaders to make sure that they not only get rest but make sure their teams do also.
Being battered and tired all the time can’t be something we celebrate. It is should raise alarm bells and great concern. This applies for ourselves and those we serve and lead.
You’re more than your work and service. What fills you up? What hobbies or interests outside of your service have you neglected? It might be time to find your paint brushes, fishing rods or gaming console.
In The End
Taking care of ourselves is not only God-honouring but life-giving. It is difficult to give life when we’re unhealthy. We’re called to love our neighbors as ourselves. The imperative assumption there is that we do love ourselves. I’d love to see you fulfill your assignment. Please take care of yourself.