Friday, 17 June 2011

Getting the More Important Done By Doing Less

Another excellent column in Christianity Today—Carolyn Arends on "Hardworking Sloths: Disguising Spiritual Laziness—the lazy culprit behind our busyness."
…spiritual receptivity requires unglamorous practices like prayer, time in Scripture, and attentiveness to what God is doing in the people around me. Telling me, "Prayer promotes spiritual growth!" has as much wow-factor as announcing, "Reducing calories leads to weight loss!" I want something new—a development that will lead to breakthrough. Peterson observes that spiritual disciplines have "not been tried and discarded because [they] didn't work, but tried and found difficult (and more than a little tedious) and so shelved in favor of something or other that could be fit into a busy [person's] schedule."
Scheduling is no small matter. Attending takes time without offering quantifiable results. It requires stillness in a culture that rewards industriousness. It's inefficient in a world that considers getting things done next to godliness. A pastor who refuses to be slothful in the areas of silence and reflection stands a good chance of getting fired.
The wise Peterson to which she refers is, of course, St Eugene.  All here.

And speaking of St Eugene; along the same lines, from Leadership magazine (I'm sorry, I don't know which issue):
A student was telling me he saw a video on Michael Jordan. He said, “Michael Jordan looks so lazy. He looks like he’s not doing anything. Then suddenly, he’s through three people, and he’s slam-dunking the ball.” 
As a pastor, how do you slip through the opposition and make your point? You do it by being lazy—or what looks like being lazy—sitting in your study for half a day reading a book that doesn’t have anything to do with your sermon. 
Consider also The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, (Word Publishing: 1989)—Peterson on “The Unbusy Pastor” in which describes the scene in Moby Dick when, in pursuit of the whale, the whale-boat is filled with frantic, fierce, straining rowers; a raving, outraged Captain Ahab and someone else:
In this boat, however, there is one man who does nothing. He doesn’t hold an oar; he doesn’t perspire; he doesn’t shout. He is languid in the crash and the cursing. This man is the harpooner, quiet and poised, waiting. And then this sentence: “To ensure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil.” p33
Just so for we priests and pastors. Peterson suggests the appointment book as the authority for being unbusy: 
The trick, of course, is to get to the calendar before anyone else does. I mark out the times for prayer, for reading, for leisure, for the silence and solitude out of which creative work—prayer, preaching, and listening—can issue. p32