Monday, February 27, 2012
Idolatry of the urgent Part 2: What is important?
I am sitting in my office working on a sermon. There are at least 20 emails in the inboxes of each of my 3 email accounts. I know that the month is closing out and that my ministry update report is due. My son needs help with his home school work. The laundry hamper is overflowing. My mother needs me to take care of some business for her which she is not able to do. A dear pastor friend wants me to meet him for lunch. There is a conference coming up in two weeks that I have been asked to attend. The phone is making noises every 5 minutes alerting me to something…and I just really would like to go outside in the sun and read a book.
This is not a hypothetical situation but truly a “normal day” for me. I believe that this is a normal day for many pastors and ministers. We so desire to be greatly used by God. We so desire that our lives will not be wasted- that we will have an impact on the world for Christ. All that is a fine motivation for life but the reality is not easy. It is easy to identify the urgent because now everything presents itself as urgent. But we would do very well to recognize that not ever urgent alert is important. In fact, the vast majority of events that presents themselves as urgent are not at all important.
What then is important? Have you ever sat down and prioritized what is important? Of all the grand and great things you wish to accomplish, what is important? Here’s an exercise for you. Make a list of what is important to you. Now, if I were to ask the average Sunday School class in the average evangelical church what is important to them you would get “Sunday School” answers. This exercise will not benefit you at all if you are not honest with yourself. If you were to say that you “don’t have time” to make the list then you maybe so deeply enslaved to the idolatry of the urgent that there is no help for you. So, make a list of what is important to you.
Now make a list of all that you do. Include all the things you must do (for example, from 10am to 12pm every Sunday I have to teach and preach). At this point, do not include the time. Just make a list of all the things you do. Now make a list of all that you have accomplished in the past week. For example, if you spend 20 minutes a day walking or listening to preaching or reading include that. Again, don’t be concerned about how much time. Now look at your two lists. How much on your “done” list actually relates to what you claim to be important? Let me give you an example from my own life.
I truly am convicted that prayer is important to me. I know that I need prayer to be strong against temptation, to be filled with the awe & wonder of God, to be empowered for ministry, and strengthen from discouragement. But even though I say with my mouth that prayer is important, there have been seasons in my life when it has been neglected. I also find that the neglect was often due to allowing “urgent” issues to take my time.
How then do we take the priorities that we have and make them a reality?
Next time: Part 3: Finding Direction