The youth ministry I grew up in was amazing. I was offered so much activity and was infused with so much passion that I was always serving somewhere.
Each week started with Sunday school, followed by Sunday service and a meal out with fellow youth groupies. Sundays ended with the evening service. On Monday nights, we went street witnessing, on Wednesdays we had youth group (all of the “mature” students served in multiple capacities), and on Friday nights we did ministry at the nursing homes.
My spiritual life was packed with social activities and service opportunities, and I owned my kingdom responsibility. I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to win the world.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much depth. I knew a few Scriptures and a couple of worship songs, but I hadn’t adopted spiritual disciplines.
My mask was polished, and no one had any idea I was serving on empty. But because I had let the energy of leadership overtake the power of a personal, filling, focusing and engaging, personal connection with Christ, I was headed for burnout … and I was only 15.
My church did not intend to create an atmosphere that overemphasized activity and underemphasized personal God-pursuit, growth responsibility and root growing. It did not set out to grow a group of very active but spiritually shallow young people. It had no intention of leaving a wake of burned-out young adults with strong résumés of service but with no lasting passion for Jesus. Unfortunately, all of those things happened.
Thankfully, because of a crisis, I started living my kingdom life vertically instead of horizontally in my mid-teens. I developed a deep passion for Christ that fueled my compassion for others and for service. For the first time in my life, I was letting God build me in private before I was serving Him in public.
The pattern that I fell into when I was a teenager accurately represents the dilemma that many with kingdom agendas regularly face. We are driven to do, and sometimes forget we need to first rest in Him. We wake up ready to accomplish and don’t set aside time to replenish.
As easy as it is to justify high activity when it comes to godly causes, if we don’t recognize that we need to abide, enjoy and draw near, we will sacrifice effectiveness and will potentially meander down a road that leads to implosion.
That said, I want to remind us all of two very important things.
First, we must fight to maintain spiritual disciplines that refresh, renew, refocus and help us reconnect. The busier we become, the easier it is to justify a lifestyle that doesn’t leave room for personal pursuit and spiritual reflection.
However, it is the private disciplines that will not only fuel our bodies but invite increased anointing. There is no adequate excuse for drifting from His presence. Nothing on our agenda is more important. But it takes discipline, determination and targeted scheduling to keep it in proper priority.
Second, those of us in ministry must remember that the greatest lesson we can invest in those following us is the priority and practice of spending time alone with Christ.
It is possible to over-entertain and over-program. If the people we lead are so busy living their faith horizontally that they never have time to invest vertically, then we have done them a disservice.
Using our influence, we can train them to fall in love with Jesus and not just the activities and service attached. We can give them glimpses into our own personal priorities and equip them with the tools to run into God’s presence regularly.
There is something inside of us all that longs to make a difference. We want to see lives changed, needs met and culture impacted, but we must not forget the source of our passion, strength, wisdom and impact. We must stay close to Him if we are truly going to make a difference representing Him.
May we never get too busy trying to accomplish great things for God that we neglect His invitation to spend time with the One who is great.
Sean Dunn is a speaker, author and the founder of Groundwire, an organization that exists to broadcast hope to anyone who may be struggling or in crisis. Operating 24 hours a day, hundreds of volunteers man Groundwire’s chat platform, which is available to anyone at anytime who may need help, encouragement or affirmation. Sean and his four children live outside of Denver, Colo. Visit groundwire.net.