Regardless of the area of ministry you’ve been serving in in your church, if you’ve been serving there for some time now, you can likely attest to the fact that once you’ve gotten the hang of what it is you’re doing, it becomes easy to take off from there. We become better able to brainstorm, to dream, and to fill the open field that’s before us with people, projects, and plans to execute. We find ourselves making new connections and going to new conferences in the blink of a minute, suddenly feeling as though all of this flourishing or what feels like ‘success’ is our own doing. Sometimes this development is a result of our own hard work but more often, it is God.  When we arrive here, it can feel seamless to continue onward in our own strength doing what may be ‘our job,’ without thinking much of it or we can check in with ourselves to see where it is we’re serving from: our own means or from our strength and overflowing rest found in God alone. It’s important to check in with ourselves often, to discern where we’re working from, and if necessary, to make time and put in the real work that is changing our rhythm in order that we may be working from this place of overflowing rest and health in our relationship with God, rather than a place of what feels familiar in the ‘church world though disconnected in our hearts. 

The work we do within ministry should fill us. It should give us joy and satisfy our rest. Don’t get me wrong, simultaneously it can be tedious and tiring too, though for the most part, it should not drain us. Within ministry, this type of flourishing in which our schedules become so much more full and everything takes off, in which we begin to work less in the strength God gives us and more in our own strength can happen so quickly and so seamlessly because the reality is, everything around us in our ministry feels like God. It’s easy to continue the work we’re used to doing because it has to do with God and with ‘Kingdom things,’ though that does not mean we’re doing the work from a place of connection to Him in our hearts. It does not constitute nor guarantee the state of our relationship with Him. This is where burnout and tension walk in. 

A pastor of mine once showed me a diagram with concentric circles. Concentric circles look like one circle with larger circles around it, like a target or a Skee Ball arcade game with different layers around one circle. Around this one circle on the diagram my pastor showed me, were five concentric circles around it. He said that the core of the circle, the first one, represented our hearts. The smallest, first circle around the core, which all other circles formed around was equivalent to greatest priority and outwardly, each circle represented less and less priority. He used this diagram to visually show us that the centre of all the circles, our hearts,—from which all the surrounding circles ‘ripple’ or ‘flow’—should be our relationship with God. Our family, spouses or significant others, work, school, etc, should all come after, with nothing taking greater priority in our hearts than God. With that being said, when we’re working in ministry and discern the tension that God is not the greatest priority of our heart, where do we go? What do we do?

We stop. We take a step back and we evaluate. We work through the things that are changing our priority. Whatever it may be: stress, desire, distraction, etc. We identify the cause and we put in the effort, with the Lord, to manage these things in a healthy way, rather than glossing over them or trying to figure it out by ourselves. We do the internal work, the work in our relationship with God that we need to, that He may occupy the centre of our hearts, and then we proceed. We attend to and with awareness, we continue to put in the constant work so that His place and priority may not be neglected. All of the things we do in ministry, not just the way we serve in our church but the way we walk with Jesus as disciples of Jesus in every avenue of our lives should be out of our relationship with God, out of this place of overflowing in our hearts where God is the centre and the priority. 

So, I invite you to consider what your own concentric circles look like. What is your centre? Where, in your church and in your personal walk with Jesus, are you serving and ministering from? As disciples of Jesus, the reality is that we need to love people the way Jesus loves us. We cannot have the Kingdom of God without the King. We cannot merely do the stuff that feels like and looks like God without God, nor can we post about church without being the church.