“You’ve got to flow with the current, my friend,” said Flavio, my dive master, with a wide grin.
I love scuba diving, but on this day I was frustrated and worn out. Our dive had been a 40-foot deep, 45-minute exploration of a beautiful section of reef filled with bright orange elkhorn coral and a colorful collection of fish.
My problem was the way I was killing myself trying to remain in front of the coral. I was expending tons of energy so I could stay in one place in order to get a closer look. It wasn’t working. I felt like my dive looked like a WWE wrestling match: me against the current. Flavio’s dive looked like a graceful ballet dance in the warm water. I was desperate to figure out his secret.
“The current is always going to be there” Flavio shared with me. “To enjoy the dive,” he said, “you let the current carry you. You don’t fight it.” He continued, “It’s a lot more fun and takes a lot less effort! Then you can enjoy all the beautiful things in front of you.”
The next dive was a whole different affair. Doing as Flavio had instructed me, I let the current move me. My heart was more peaceful, and I had more time to enjoy the beauty before me. I used less energy and had a more powerful experience.
For years I wondered if this stress I carried inside me was just a normal part of being a Christian leader.
This story reminds me a lot of how many of us experience church leadership. We are often working ourselves toward burnout. Our minds are aware of so many tasks, so many priorities, and so many people to serve. We attack our task list like a never-ending battle, but the battle is killing us. For years I wondered if this stress I carried inside me was just a normal part of being a Christian leader.
I thought if I worked hard enough, God would bless all my effort. Like a comet streaking across the sky, I was burning hot and moving fast, but I lacked a deeper inner life. I was doing a lot of things, but not seeing much lasting fruit. Over time I discovered more effort didn’t equal more fruit. In fact, I found the opposite to be true; the more I poured out from my own self-effort, the less I seemed to accomplish for the Kingdom.
The more I poured out from my own self-effort, the less I seemed to accomplish for the Kingdom.
There is an easier way. There is a more graceful and better way to do ministry. Let me explain.
I learned the more time I spent in the presence of Jesus praying, worshipping, and listening to him, the more fruit began to effortlessly pop up on my tree.
I started to measure my effectiveness based on my inner life, not on my outward activity or accomplishments. I focused on praying more and waiting in God’s presence to hear his voice more clearly.
If you’re looking to move towards that kind of life, here are a few tools I’ve used:
- Learn how to incorporate stillness, silence, and scripture into your daily rhythms. The Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Resources by Pete Scazzero are helpful in learning how to do this.
- I have also found great help in pursuing slowness through reading devotionals like Come Away My Beloved by Francis Roberts. I typically spend early mornings reading and sitting in God’s presence and receiving from Him. In those quiet moments, I get encouragement, guidance, and fresh energy for what he is calling me to do that day.
- Check out the study The Life of David: Leadership Lessons and the Pursuit of Intimacy by Mike Bickle. It teaches how David measured his life by his connection to the Father. He was constantly monitoring three things: the tenderness of his heart toward God, the promptness and thoroughness of his obedience to God, and the meekness of his heart toward others.
I find when I learn from tools like these and begin to practice taking time to rest and drink in the goodness of God in quiet peace, a current of life is released around me. Let the current carry you. It is a better way to live and lead.
Tom is currently serving as the Coaching Coordinator for Multiply Vineyard. He is also the Senior Pastor of Blue Ridge Vineyard, a church he planted in 2010 with his wife, Beth, in Asheville, NC. He also has served as an Area Pastoral Coordinator in the Mid Atlantic Region. Tom’s passion is helping and encouraging leaders to become all they were created to be for the kingdom of God. Tom and Beth have four beautiful kids, a lovely daughter-in-law, and one amazing grandson.