In the animated movie Megamind, good guy super hero MetroMan has had his fill of saving the citizens of Metro City. He has bailed them out once too often, is burnt out and in need a change. So he fakes his own death. But not before using his powers one last time. He utilises his super speed to take a casual stroll through the city, observing its people, who, because of his speed, appear frozen in time.
He is able to walk through the parks; read at the library; sit at a table; sip from a falling drink suspended in mid-air, all the while ruminating on his decision to step back from the super-hero cape and caper. Things have slowed down to the point where he can make a clear decision about how he should use time.
If only we had such a luxury: to be able to assess our busyness from within it, but apart from it. To stand simultaneously in a above the frantic, observing ourselves and to determine whether we are using time well. But we do not have that luxury. The busyness of life sweeps along Christian and non-Christian alike. We keep saying we don’t want to be this busy, but seem powerless to change it.
I ended the first half of this two-part article with this line:
The problem of course is, as the late David Foster Wallace so memorably put it when referencing the need to worship God; The modern Westerner is being eaten alive by time. The very thing we thought we could master, is, as these things tend to do, mastering us.
How do those involved in Christian ministry respond to this, as we challenge the secular world and its use of time? No longer does the church calendar rule our lives. And it’s a fanciful notion to think that if we still use an older liturgical pattern of yearly worship that we are doing anything more than window-dressing time for our people. It would seem that the secular time demon is in too deep.
Those in paid church ministry could do worse than take a leaf from MetroMan. Not that we can slow down time but, as those who belong to the age-to-come whilst still engaged in this age, we are—in a sense—able to mirror MetroMan’s approach.
And since we are committed to Scriptural revelation comingtime from time, then we are well placed to take a stance outside of the incessant secular timepiece, and model how to redeem time. I offer the start of some suggestions, but you will need to fill in how this will look for you. Pastoral staff can help their time-pressed people by:
We can’t call people to do what we ourselves do not do—or at
least not for very long. When ministry people are too pressed for time,
there’s little sense asking others to be less so. We model what’s
important to people. We say that’s because gospel work is important, but
sometimes that’s just the more-pious-than-Jesus answer. What we mean is
that my job is keeping me busy, just like all those other people with
real jobs out there are being kept busy. Yep, you may be busy, but you
also may be trying to justify yourself outside of the gospel.
Don’t wear the “You seem so busy” ribbon with pride. If you have
to, lament your busyness, then ask someone who uses time well in home,
business and church to help you override the reflexive decisions to
always say “Yes”, instead of “No”. A respected leader in my church is
very clear about what he agrees to do and not do. He doesn’t decide that
on the run, but has a pre-determined approach. He has knocked back
several career advancements to ensure he is no over-stretched.
Oh, and October will arrive eventually. What do I mean by that?
Every year I get asked to speak at a variety of events. I say “No” quite
frequently. But not in October. Sure enough, this year I have a busy
October (again!). Why? Because October is always a long way away. Just
like with borrowing too much money now, because we believe that
circumstances will change for the better in three years when we have to
pay it back, we are optimists with time. Hence in January, assume
October will be as time-pressed as March will be.
Because modern Westerners worship time, then exhorting your
people on the basis of Scripture about how God views time is both a
corrective and an encouragement. At some capacity every year it would be
helpful to have a teaching component about time. Whilst busyness is not
itself a sin, it can often mask sinful or prideful drives, or a frantic
hope-in-this-age (what another generation called worldliness).
Preaching/teaching about time
is not the issue: Painting a bigger picture of how God views time, and how worthwhile he is would surely call for a more reflective church timetable.
There is an engineering maxim in relation to machine that goes: Well
you can’t add those things, can you? But you take away something else
to make a machine lighter and simpler. And the lighter and simpler a
machine, the better it works.
Church can be heavy and complex when we uncritically compete the
busyness of the culture. As our church plant has grown we have stared
down the temptation to add stuff to look more like a “grown up church.”
For us at the moment these include:
We just don’t run any. Honest!
This flows on from the first point. It is a fancy way of saying we always look to double up. There are ways of doing this. For us it includes, doubling up community engagement and evangelism. Congregations members buy dinner at the community restaurant run on a Friday night by an independent caterer at the local sports complex (where we also meet for church).
It’s an opportunity to encourage each other, meet other people from the community and, where possible, share the gospel. We’re always on the look out for community programs that we can rather than what we can . That’s a mind shift, and a better use of our time, money and people resources.
The 7 Principle
The 7 Principle
just figuring this one out. We’re encouraging people to have seven
church engagements in a month. A weekly big group gathering (that’s
four), a fortnightly smaller group (another two), a monthly communal
meal in a medium sized group (one).
Maybe that seems like a low
buy in for you, but it’s actually seven gospel gatherings in twenty
eight days; one every four days. Seems enough to us, if we are doing
them right. Churches often operate on the “never mind the quality, feel
the width” principle.
There are plenty of other bits and bobs
such as meetings and music practices (as well as the veritable industry
of Christian conferences/events) that take up time. We’re convinced that if
we do those seven well, creating a healthy alternative liturgy to the
modern liturgies available, then we will have gone some way towards
being time redeemers not time worshippers.