Spheres of work

I realize after 26 years of ordered ministry there are essentially 5 spheres of work in the church that require attention. They are: 1) thinking through our work, with attention to the theology that lies behind the work, 2) planning and strategizing our work, the process behind these plans, 3) how we feel about our work, pastoral care for those doing the work, 4) the spirituality of our work, requiring a Spiritual Director and/or a spiritual discipline to our work, and 5) rolling up our sleeves and getting the work done in a timely and effective manner. Upon reflection I realize that I am drawn to 1) and 5), thinking and doing, and that this is a fairly unique combination in church leadership styles and skillsets.

The vast majority of my colleagues are found in 2), 3) and 4), that is that they enjoy and feel called to process, pastoral care (giving and receiving) and spiritual growth and discipline. I used to think I was drawn to process but then I assumed my strategy of making a list of 5 short term things and 5 long term things I planned to work on that day was “process”. I now see this is not “process” but rather a work style. I find process, at least the kinds I have been involved with in the church, frustrating, resulting in lengthy reports that are seldom acted upon. There are times I like to sit with colleagues and discuss how I feel about work but too often these become “blaming” exercises, where we look at others and suggest “they” are the ones that stand in the way of our happiness in ministry. It is rare I hear a sense that we in leadership are flawed and that some of our disappointments come from our own failures and brokenness. Spirituality and spiritual discernment are in fact a growing edge for me, I don’t have a spiritual director and I do not practice any specific spiritual discipline but recently I have taken to “talking to God” in my walks, looking to the sky, the trees, the landscape, for inspiration and refreshment. It works!

My friends and colleagues who love to talk theology are rarely doers and my action-oriented friends and colleagues are rarely interested in the cerebral task of thinking through why we do what we do. Many are surprised to see me in a quiet mode, but there are many days when all I want to do is read, think, write and see the big picture. I have the capacity for much work and fast, efficient, and effective work but if it is not connected to a named purpose it feels like “busy work”, which to me is no work at all. I want my work to “mean something”, be connected to a large goal I have for myself and my world.

At this stage of my life I look for opportunities to serve the church and the world with big ideas and effective action. Where I can do both I am ecstatic. I am also busy exploring a newfound appreciation of spiritual wonder, particularly in landscape and art. I find process and “how I feel” are questions that often leave me cold but I know they are important for the vast majority of people.

In short I think it is important that we know ourselves, what makes our work meaningful to us, what kinds of work motivate and sustain our spirit and in basic terms, what makes us happy. Singer Joe Jackson sings, “You can’t get what you want unless you know what you want”. I want to think and I want to do. To get there I need the sustaining spirit of landscape and art to shape, inspire and refresh my spirit.

Off to work…