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crazy busy – stu crossan


The first book that I read in 2014 was “Finding Sanctuary” written by a Benedictine Abbot (an Aussie in England) called Christopher Jamison that explores the growing clamour in Western society to find some form of quiet space in this age of hyper connectivity and information overload. The second book I have just begun is “Crazy Busy” by Kevin DeYoung a Reformed pastor and writer from the United States.

This choice of reading is no doubt a reflection of how my year went last year. The further on in ministry we go, the more responsibilities we gather, some God ordained some perhaps not. For the fulltime pastor, who is carrying the bulk of their church’s preaching load, raising a family, serving their denomination, writing pithy blog articles and following the Highlanders rugby team ( they are worth following really!), the title “Crazy Busy” becomes all too relevant.

Is it just me, or has the ever growing list of good things to be involved in got longer? Have we made ministry into something it was never meant to be and have we become immersed in the patterns of this world to such an extent that the time/effort and inspiration we devote to preaching is in danger of getting short changed?

I have long tried to devote the first day of my week to sermon preparation, but with flexibility to accommodate pastoral engagement, staff meetings and phone calls/ emails etc. By the end of last year, for the sake of my flock and myself I decided this flexibility was no longer working and a more rigid policy was required. For the last 3 months I have been trialling Monday as my Acts 6 Day. Friday continues to be my Sabbath but Monday is now devoted to prayer and Ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4) with no pastoral engagement. If you want to die, please do so on Tuesday now thank you.

I am not convinced that Church leadership has got more difficult over time. It does appear that Western Society has become more complex and lives are fraying around the edges as a result, hence the popular response to the two books I mentioned earlier and the need to find sanctuary in the midst of our busy world. As appealing as the thought of living in a Benedictine monastery sounds at times, I’m not sure that my wife and kids would endorse a long term move to the cloisters. Not sure the monks would either!

So my fellow busy preachers, how are you ‘finding sanctuary’ this year?   Have our lives become ‘crazy busy’?

beware the pedestal – stu crossan

This year for Christmas, my eight year boy gave me a DVD of Leonard Cohen’s: ‘Songs from the Road’, which highlights his world tour of 2008/2009. Whenever I find myself getting too upbeat and optimistic, I can listen to a bit of Leonard to let the melancholy back in. Actually this particular DVD is classic with all the hits: Hallelujah, Suzanne etc. One poem that he recites (and Leonard is first a poet,) caught my attention. It includes the following:

you raise me up in grace,

then you put me in a place,

where I must fall.”

Wonderfully depressing – Leonard at his best!

I think he is referring to the audience and the adulation of his large army of supporters who tend to place the performer on a platform so high and so dangerous to his own ego, that at some point he must fall.

I wonder if preachers can ever be placed on a similar pedestal by the congregation they preach to. Certainly it has never happened to me – no likely chance of that Stu! Quite the reverse most would say! But the temptation for congregations to do just this is very real. The spokesperson for God gets elevated to place that their imperfect humility cannot sustain. It begins in grace but turns into something closer to idolatry as the congregation begins to worship God’s preacher rather than Jesus Christ.

This temptation, which is a trap for preacher and congregation alike, has always been around but I suspect there is certain aspect of today’s western culture that makes us perhaps more susceptible to fall. Preaching today in New Zealand, and I suspect in many western countries around the world, there is great temptation and pressure to offer more of you. There is hunger for ‘authenticity and transparency’ (whatever they might be), that can lure a preacher into more and more self-disclosure and less and less God disclosure. In my own context I know the sermons I preach that contain more stories about myself and my stumbling faith, get well received. I have to constantly ask myself the question, “is this personal story revealing Christ in me, or am I offering something less?”

As Cohen’s poem indicates, the encouragement from our hearers begins well, even in grace. The preacher who has pushed through their first decade of preaching in one church, understands the seasons of honeymoon, grace, patience, concern; but then what? If your church is more interested in your story than Gods story and if subtly over time you become complicit in allowing your name and reputation to become great, it is a recipe for a fall.

So how do we ensure we are proclaiming God’s word in a way that we are heard in this climate of transparency without elevating our name? We can pray John’s statement of Jesus: He must become greater; I must become less, but I am learning it ain’t always that easy.

I wonder what you think?

How much of me is too much?

I wonder what you do to ensure Jesus is the one who is lifted up?