June 8, 2022

Establishing Healthy Ministry Rhythms & Boundaries with Lance Witt – Episode 248 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

establishing healthy ministry rhythms

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Pastoring Pastors (Part 1)

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“We have to take control of our calendars. We have to be the boss of our schedules rather than letting the pace of life dictate the health of our bodies, our minds, and our souls.”

There’s no doubt that the last few years have been incredibly challenging for ministry leaders. In fact, Barna reported last October that two out of five pastors were considering quitting full-time ministry—and the percentages were even higher for those pastors under the age of 45. 

That’s why we’re kicking off a new four-week series called “Pastoring Pastors,” where we’ll be focusing on your personal health as a pastor and leader. (In part two, Sandra Stanley shares three key insights on how pastors can maintain humility and a healthy soul throughout their ministry. In part 3, David Ashcraft shares how pastors can stay the course and commit to finishing strong through all the ups and downs of life and leadership. In part 4, Jimmy and Irene Rollins share their own ministry and marriage journey as well as practical wisdom for navigating personal and marriage crises).


In the first episode of our series, Lance Witt, former Executive and Teaching Pastor at Saddleback Church and founder of Replenish, joins us to discuss establishing healthy ministry rhythms, boundaries, Sabbath, and more. We unpack questions like:

  • Do church leaders have a pace of life problem that needs to be fixed?
  • How do we begin to establish healthy rhythms in our lives?
  • Is Sabbath still important, and what should it look like?
  • What are best practices for pastors considering a sabbatical?
We have to take control of our calendars. We have to be the boss of our schedules rather than letting the pace of life dictate the health of our bodies, our minds, and our souls.  [episode 248] #unstuckchurch Share on X Self-care is not selfish—it’s actually good stewardship. [episode 248] #unstuckchurch Share on X It's easy to let our work for God replace our being with God. [episode 248] #unstuckchurch Share on X The Christian life flows from the inside to the outside. [episode 248] #unstuckchurch Share on X

This Episode is Sponsored by Leadr:

The “Great Resignation” is far from over, but with unemployment at a low, it’s clear that people are resigning because they want to be led and developed, not managed. As a leader, are you creating a healthy culture where your team is being cared for and developed? 

Leadr is on a mission to transform The Great Resignation into The Great Resolution. Leadr is a people development software that helps you engage and grow your team. Check out Leadr.com, and see why over 700 churches have already joined this mission. Mention The Unstuck Church podcast for 20% off your first year!

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We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.

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Tony (00:00):

I heard a recent MSNBC report that according to the latest labor statistics data, the great resignation is far from over. With unemployment at a low, people are resigning because they want to be led and developed, not managed. As a leader, are you creating a healthy culture where your team is being cared for and developed? My friends at Leadr are on a mission to transform the great resignation into the great resolution. Leadr is a people development software that helps you engage and grow your team. So check out leadr.com, that’s leadr.com (no e) and see why over 700 churches have already joined this mission. Mention this podcast also for a 20% discount.

Sean (00:50):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. In data as recent as October of 2021, Barna Group found that two out of five pastors are considering quitting full-time ministry. The percentages were higher for those pastors under the age of 45. There’s no doubt that the last few years have been incredibly challenging for ministry leaders. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy start a four week series to help you grow in your personal health as a pastor and leader. Before you listen, though, make sure you subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, you’re gonna get tools to go along with each week’s conversation, all of the resources we mention and access to our archive of podcast resources from past episodes. You can sign up by going to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. Now let’s join Tony and Amy for this week’s conversation.

Amy (01:47):

Well, last month we did a series on preaching and teaching, and we said many times it was the first time we ever did a focus series on the topic, and Tony, I could be wrong. But this podcast series that we’re launching today may be a first for us as well, right?

Tony (02:02):

I think you may be right, Amy. I mean, we’re starting a brand new series today that solely designed to benefit you, the pastors and church leaders who are listening. And this is probably not a surprise to you. At least I hope it isn’t, but we obviously have an agenda in this podcast to engage more church leaders and then hopefully to increase the number of churches that our team gets to serve. And this podcast, it’s part of our content marketing strategy. In other words, we have two goals for this podcast. The priority goal is to provide content that helps you as a leader and helps your church get unstuck. But the secondary goal, we’re trying to convince you that we can help you and your team move your mission forward. And that’s why you’ll often hear me encourage you to reach out to us at some point in the episode. My hope, of course, is that you almost don’t know that this podcast is part of our marketing strategy, because even if we never get a chance to work with you and your team, I still want you to become the leader God wants you to be, and I want your church to be on mission, helping people meet and follow Jesus. However, this month, we’re going to set aside that agenda. We aren’t going to talk about ministry strategy. We’re not going to try to convince you to engage with The Unstuck Group, because we want this entire month to be focused on your health. We want this to be a summer of renewal in your heart, in your mind and in your spirit. And because of that, you can consider this series, if you will, a free gift to you. So here’s the only thing I would ask in return. If over the next several weeks, you hear something you find to be helpful for you in your soul, please pass that episode along to at least one other friend in ministry, because if the data that I’m seeing is accurate, there are many, many pastors and church leaders who are considering walking away from ministry. And it’s very likely that your friend in ministry needs the encouragement that you’re about ready to hear as much as I need this encouragement as well.

Amy (04:14):

I love the heart behind this series, and I love this first interview that you did, Tony. With that preview, will you introduce the guest that you’ve invited to join us for today’s conversation?

Tony (04:25):

Yeah, I’m delighted to do that because the person we’re going to hear from in a moment is one of my favorite people in the world. And I’m not exaggerating. I don’t exaggerate. That’s not who I am, Amy.

Amy (04:37):

No, you don’t.

Tony (04:37):

Lance Witt has been leading churches and organizations for more than 40 years. He was the lead pastor of three different churches. And then he spent seven years as the executive and teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in Southern California. And we heard Rick Warren, the senior pastor, on one of our previous episodes, but back in 2007, Lance left Saddleback and ended up launching a ministry called Replenish, which is dedicated to helping people live and lead from a healthy soul. And over the last 15 years, Lance has encouraged, challenged and equipped thousands of leaders through speaking, personal coaching, life planning, and then writing several books. Lance and I met when he was at Saddleback, but I really didn’t get to know Lance until I read his first book, which is titled “Replenish.” And it really impacted my life. In fact, so much that I began to use it in all my coaching networks that I did with pastors and every opportunity I could get, I would recommend it to a pastor or a church leader, especially if I knew that the pace of ministry was impacting that pastor’s leadership in their life. So you’re going to love what Lance is about to share. And with that, here’s my conversation with Lance Witt.

Tony (06:07):

Lance, in a moment we’re going to spend most of our time today talking about establishing rhythms in our lives to protect the health of our souls, our most important relationships and our ministries. However, some folks may just not be familiar with your backstory and because of that, the pastors and church leaders who are listening may not realize that this topic is coming from personal convictions that have developed through the years of your ministry in churches. So can you kind of catch us up to speed on your journey and what prompted this conviction?

Lance (06:40):

Yeah. I think, Tony, when I think about my backstory, I think the beginning of it is very similar to a lot of pastors. I felt called to ministry at a young age, went to Bible college and seminary, and, actually became a senior pastor at the age of 23, which it still makes me laugh today. I feel like I should go back and apologize to my first church for inflicting myself on them. But I was a senior pastor for 20 years. I loved the local church, wanted to make a difference. And then kind of the big shift in my story took place in 1999, when I joined the staff at Saddleback Church and I was there when Rick Warren wrote the book “Purpose Driven Life,” which was a huge game changer for him and for our entire team. And I often look back on that season and I’ll tell people it was both the most intoxicating and toxic all at the same time. I mean, it was an amazing rocket ride of ministry influence and opportunity, but it was also crazy making. And the bottom line is, Tony, I really wasn’t leading myself well. And so again, there’s a lot more to this story, but after seven years of being there, made the decision to step down because I was not in a good place and it was stressful at home. I was just fried and felt burnt out. And I didn’t have another church to go to at the time. And I just remember when I left, like I didn’t just want a different way to do ministry. I had to have a different way to do life. And I knew that there had to be something more. And so this sort of put me on this journey of beginning to understand the issue of soul care and paying attention to your inner life. And out of my own journey of bringing my own soul back to life, God called me to help other leaders do the same. So I now have a ministry called Replenish and sort of the tagline we use is we wanna help leaders, you know, learn to live and lead from a healthy soul. And the goal is to help leaders be healthy, holy and humble. So, that’s been a little bit of kind of, you know, what’s informed how I got to where I am today.

Tony (08:52):

Absolutely. Well here, you know this about me. I’m kind of a professional strategist, Lance, that’s my day job. And one of the foundational questions that I always ask is, are we trying to fix a problem that doesn’t need to be solved? So with that in mind, I guess the first question I have for you and, my goodness, this is probably the biggest softball question that you’ve ever had to answer in an interview like this is this: Do pastors and church leaders have a pace of life problem that needs to be fixed? I mean, is creating healthy margin a need for those of us in ministry, or maybe to go all John Mark Comer on you, do we really need to be ruthless about eliminating hurry?

Lance (09:34):

Wow. I appreciate the softball question. So, as you might guess, I actually think the answer to all of those is yes. And, I do think pace of life is a huge issue for a lot of leaders. And again, I think I often sort of wore the extreme busyness and workaholism in my early years as kind of a badge of honor, right? Like, because people who are driven and in a hurry, you know, they’re the ones who are getting stuff done and making a difference. And so I do think it’s an issue. I think, Tony, as I would look back, I would say I had a faulty theology of availability in the early years of my ministry. I thought if anybody asked me something, because I was a pastor, I should obviously say yes, no matter the time or the hour or the inconvenience to my family, the answer just always had to be “I’m available.” And then I think as pastors, because you know, we’re about eternity and people are dying and going to hell and what we do matters, we can sort of justify this insane pace of life and not embracing our limits because, after all, we’re doing it for Jesus, and part of my story is just learning how that is very shortsighted and that will leave you pretty empty. But I guess the thing I just want to add to that answer is I think it’s, especially today, for people who are listening to this podcast who are in local churches, it is more than just pace. It’s also complexity. It’s leadership drain, all the shifts and adjustments and, you know, things that pastors have had to deal with, the political polarization over the last three years. So I think one, you have already pastors who drive hard, work hard and run fast, and then add all the complexity. And so the result is, I think, a lot of leaders feeling empty, and now we know, from some of the most recent Barna stuff, that a lot of pastors are seriously considering quitting. You know, the most recent one looks like the number’s now gonna be somewhere right around 40%. Was 38%, you know, three or four months ago. And like 29%, just a few months earlier. So, I think, and again, these are not people who are wanting to just switch churches. These are people who are thinking about like, I’m just gonna call it quits. And so for me, what it does is it raises the stakes on this whole issue of self care and that pastors have to learn, because of complexity and pace, that self care is not selfish. I wanna like, can I say that again? Self-care is not selfish. It’s actually good stewardship. And so, and it’s gonna help you stay in ministry over the long haul. So all that to say, yeah. I think the pace issue is a big deal.

Tony (12:30):

Yeah. And by the way, Lance, on that note, I actually think you were the first person to recommend to me John Mark Comer’s book. And I finally slowed down enough to read it, and it’s convicting. So thank you for that. So, if indeed this is a problem that needs to be fixed, where should we begin? I mean, how do we begin to establish healthy rhythms in our lives so that this challenge that we’re facing can be in the rear view mirror?

Lance (12:58):

Yeah, I think for me the core issue, and if you can get this one, I think the rest of it can fall into place much easier, but I think you gotta take ownership of your own life. Like I have to realize, often as a pastor, I would play the victim card. Like, well, I can’t help, but this is just how life is in ministry. And it’s just hard and yes, there’s sacrifices for my family, and all of that is true, but there’s a point where that becomes destructive in your own life. And so I think I had to realize that I’m not a victim, I’m actually the perpetrator and I’m responsible for my life, and I’m responsible to lead myself well, and you know, kind of a core passage for me, Tony has been Deuteronomy 30 where the Lord offers to Israel this amazing rich, wonderful abundant life. And then he says in Deuteronomy 30, verse 11, he says, now what I’m commanding you today is not too difficult for you and it’s not beyond your reach. And I just love that because to me, it is God saying, I have provided this for you and it actually is accessible and available. And so I think first, I gotta put a stake in the ground and go, I am responsible for my one life. And then I think to get a little more nuanced and practical, I would say I had to learn how to address both the internal and external issues as it relates to healthy rhythm. So internal is, I had to ask myself like, Lance, why are you so driven? Why are you compulsively busy all the time? Why can you not say no? Like what’s going on inside of you that makes it difficult for you to have a healthy rhythm? And until I was willing to address that, I really didn’t get much traction, and I’m a bit of a productivity junkie. So I’m always trying to figure out how to work smarter and get more done in less time. But no matter how hard I worked, if I had an internal drivenness that was outta control, it just made life and ministry just really challenging. So I think there’s the internal issue. And then I think also there is the external issue of you really have to grab your calendar by the throat and you have to really be aggressive with your schedule and making sure that you’re getting the big rocks in your calendar first, things like your family time and things like Sabbath and things like rest. And I think just, you know, making sure that externally I’m managing my time in a way that allows for healthy rhythm. And I just, I think the last thing on this one, Tony is Jesus modeled this for us so well. So only having three years of public ministry to do, you would think he would just press the flesh and go from, you know, early in the morning to late at night, every day. And yet we often find him like withdrawing or as was his habit, he would get alone with the father or he would pull the disciples aside to rest, and he would leave the ministry demands to go be alone. And so for me, like just watching his rhythm of just going, Hey, I’m still, even as the Son of God, I need those rhythms where I can pull away from the demands and get replenished.

Tony (16:27):

Yeah. So on that note, let’s get very practical here. And let me just go back in time. I first became a Christ follower back in the eighties, Lance. And at that point, I was encouraged to do two things, specifically. One: listen to bad Christian music. That was the first thing. And then the second thing was to practice a daily time with God, and my spiritual mentors called that time with God a quiet time, which included solitude, it included Bible reading, it included prayer. And I’ll tell you, I’ve stopped listening to bad Christian music. So my apologies to Michael W. Smith and the pre-crossover Amy Grant, but I Lance I do, I still practice a daily time with God. And so does that mean that I’m out of date and old school or is that daily time with God something we really still need in our lives?

Lance (17:20):

I don’t even know what to say to that question. I just feel like I had a flashback to the, you know, to the eighties, and I’m sitting here wondering, like, I wonder how many people listening to the podcast even know who Amy Grant or Michael W. Smith are, but, and I’m having the song, “Friends are Friends Forever” playing in my head right now. So. Okay. So back to the question, obviously every leader listening to this podcast is gonna go well, of course, having a daily time with God is important. I teach on that. I tell people that all the time, we take them to John 15 and talk about the importance of abiding in the vine. But if you really press in and pastors and Christian ministry leaders get really honest. and I have these conversations a lot in what I do, they will finally kind of admit like, yeah, my time with God’s pretty hit and miss, pretty mechanical, routine, boring even. Prayer is usually absent. And I would kind of say, I think a lot of them would describe, if they’re really honest. Like, Hey, my time with God is not very life giving. And I think one of the things that makes it complex in ministry, and I remember hearing this statement many years ago, that it’s easy to let our work for God replace our being with God. And I think that’s really true. And so what begins to happen, and I’ve experienced this, like, you start to study the Bible and do your quiet time because you’re looking for sermon ideas or you find a leadership nugget that you wanna share with your volunteers, right? But I also, I think we also would all go, yeah, I know that there’s a direct connection between my vibrancy as a leader and the meaningful connection that I have to Jesus in a daily relationship. And so I think leaders need to lean in and start figuring out, like, how do I bring more variety to my spiritual disciplines? What do I need to do that works for me in this season? And how do I be disciplined and consistent where I am pursuing Jesus? And so, you know, I think integrating things like silence and meditation and reading from different, you know, translations, maybe doing some audio stuff or reading a devotional. But I think I would say, pastor, do whatever you have to, to keep your walk with Jesus fresh. And that matters. And it ought to be true of us that like, when people are around us, there’s this sense, like, wow, they have a deep soul and they are deeply connected and in love with Jesus. So, we all know it. We just don’t often do it in ways that end up being very life giving for us.

Tony (20:15):

And just a side note, I don’t know if we do talk about that enough as pastors to our churches. I do think that’s something that it’s not just for us, every Christ follower needs that.

Lance (20:26):

Yeah. One other note on that, I think, I would say, pastor, also don’t assume that your staff team are spiritually strong and healthy. I think we would be surprised sometimes how long it’s been since they’ve actually had a meaningful time in God’s word. And so I think you wanna bring this kind of conversation and formation even into your team environment.

Tony (20:49):

All right. So let’s continue, let’s talk a little bit about Sabbath, practicing Sabbath. Does that still need to be a priority or is that just a legalistic carryover from the Old Testament? And if it is still important, just practically speaking, what should a Sabbath day look like?

Lance (21:06):

You know, this has been such a huge game changer for me. And when I think about now 15 years plus, and when I left Saddleback, and trying to get healthy, this one’s been a big deal. And I’m just so grateful that God has given us a practical strategy. And I’ve spent a lot of time reading in scripture and reading books on this. And I do believe it is still a valid biblical principle of one in seven, that we need to have a rhythm of work and rest. Be productive and then, you know, quit and stop for a while. And I always challenge pastors and go, nowhere in the New Testament did Jesus ever take the 10 commandments down to nine. You know, if we would still validate that we shouldn’t murder or be adulterous or whatever, we probably ought of take seriously this command of Sabbath. And by the way, it’s the first thing in the Bible ever called holy. It wasn’t a person or a place. It was this period of time, this 24-hour period of time, that embraced rest. And what I also notice in scripture is that Sabbath is anchored in creation. So it predates Old Testament law. God was saying in the very active creation, as I produced for six days and then rested on the seventh, I was modeling something for you as created into my image that I want you to practice. And it’s this practice of rhythm, and nothing was made to give out all the time, right? Everything needs recovery time and rest, even in Leviticus 25, God would say to Israel, I want you to give the physical dirt a Sabbath every seven years, because nothing is made to give out all the time. And as pastors, we need to hear that. So couple of thoughts on this. One is I would say to someone, if you’re gonna get serious about this, study it. I mean, really go to scripture, because here’s what I believe. Unless you develop a biblical conviction about this, the chances of you really meaningfully practicing this and integrating into your life are not very high because the gravitational pull of busyness in ministry will always win. Unless you go, you know what? This is God’s best for me. And it is a biblical command. On the practical side, Tony, I’ve created this little template that I think can give people a way to think about practicing Sabbath, no matter what season of life they’re in. So it’s just these five words and we won’t unpack them, but Prepare, there’s some work involved in getting ready to not work, right? Stop, which is what the word Sabbath means. It just means to quit. Stop. What would it look like for you to stop for 24 hours? Rest, which is physical rest, but also being at rest in your soul, giving up obligation and work. The fourth word would be Delight. Like I think a lot of Christians are delight deficient. And so what are you doing that puts delight in you on a Sabbath? And then the last word is Worship. There ought to be more unhurried time just to be with God and honor him on a Sabbath. And so I think someone could take those five words and go, what would that look like for me and my family to put those into practice?

Tony (24:24):

That’s so good. And you could ask anytime, Lance, you can ask Emily about this. We really set aside that day every week. I mean, there are exceptions, just because of the rhythm of life, but for the most part every day, and Sunday’s always been a workday for me, even now that I don’t have Sunday obligations at at church every week. It’s just, it’s a day that I have to get some work done. And so commonly Saturday’s the day and you know, me, I’m a bit of a techie. And so I’ve actually set up the light in my office not to come on on Saturdays. And it’s just kind of it’s a physical reminder to me that this day is set aside. There’s not gonna be any work-work done today. And I need that because I work out of my home office, and the work is always right around the corner. And so I just need that kind of visual reminder. Today’s your day off. It’s not working.

Lance (25:22):

That’s so good. Well, and for me, I think a shift happened when I began to see this as really a gift from God. You know, Jesus said in Mark 2:27 “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” basically like, Hey, this was made to be a gift to you. And I think what you’re describing is like now realizing that, wow, that really is a gift.

Tony (25:44):

All right. So this question, and again, maybe it’s a step further as we’re talking about rhythms in our life. This is actually coming from one of the folks on Twitter that asked this just about a week or two ago, Lance, and I promised we would talk about this today. So, I often hear from pastors who have questions about sabbaticals, and that’s what this pastor was asking about. I mean, that has been a practice for years in academic circles, but I think it’s becoming more commonplace even within businesses in the last number of years. But have you ever been on a sabbatical, and what coaching would you give to pastors or church leaders who are considering a sabbatical?

Lance (26:27):

Yeah, I’m a little embarrassed to tell you that my first sabbatical I ever took was after more than 40 years in ministry, so I would not advocate that, but yes, actually just last year I took my first sabbatical. It was three months long and, you know, it took some planning and preparation and even financially, kind of like, getting prepared to do that, but we were just committed to doing it, and I just knew like I needed it. I remember one day I was just praying, and I just felt like, kind of like drained and empty. And I just felt like the Lord said like, you need a sabbatical. And so we put it on the schedule and calendared it, and gosh, it was pretty much everything I would’ve hoped that it would be. Now, I didn’t go into it fried and like hating my life or my ministry. So I think that’s helpful, you know, like I didn’t have to spend the first half of my sabbatical just in a coma trying to recover. But here’s some practical things I would say to people who are thinking about a sabbatical. Number one is I think one of the goals of sabbatical is remove obligation and pressure. So whatever feels like obligation and pressure, I think you’re trying to set that aside so that physically, emotionally, spiritually your life can just breathe. And then I always tell pastors, because this is a notorious thing. Like here would be my number one practical piece of advice. Do not over-schedule your sabbatical. Do not just fill it up with a bunch of random stuff. Give it some breathing room. And I always say, because you’re probably more tired than you realize, you should front load your sabbatical with physical rest, like give yourself space to sleep in, take some naps, you know fall asleep watching a movie. Just give yourself the freedom to do that. On a practical side, I would also say, you’ve gotta figure out what you’re gonna do with your technology. You know, what are you gonna do about email? What are you gonna do about people contacting you? You know, a lot of people I know get kind of a burner phone that only their family, you know, have the number to, but I think you better figure out how you’re gonna unplug, because it’s not just not going into the office. You know how tethered you can be just to your phone. And then just a couple other practical things. I always say, do something to create a great memory or two with your spouse and with your kids. Because you’re not gonna get many moments like this in your life where you get this much of an extended break. So like what could you do to kind of create a shock and awe moment, you know, in your marriage or take your kids? One of my friends, he took each one of his kids on a personal trip, just him and them, you know, during his sabbatical. And then, I think, as you come out of your sabbatical, I always say do a personal retreat, like take a day, day and a half, two days, listen to God. What has he said to you? What should you pay attention to now moving back into normal life? What should you pay attention to that he shared with you during your sabbatical? And then if there’s one mistake I made, Tony, I made many, but the one big one I wish I had to do over with my sabbatical is I would think more about how I would reenter life after three months away. I went from zero to a hundred like in day one, and I would go, that’s not smart. Like just, the first week or two, maybe just come in half the time. Just allow yourself to slowly reenter rather than just coming in, you know, guns blazing. So those would be a few things I would suggest.

Tony (30:19):

Forty years was too late. What do you think that good, healthy rhythm might look like, Lance?

Lance (30:25):

Yeah, I mean, you know, kind of rule of thumb, you know, it’s kind of been every seven years, and some of that can even be sort of linked a little bit biblically. But I do think that’s a good rhythm. The other thing I would say is I have a lot of people go like how long should it be? I mean, I think one, as long as you can get, but, I think, don’t call two weeks or three weeks a sabbatical. To me, it really does need to be six weeks or more, I think, to really create the opportunity for you to decompress, to thoroughly disconnect, to be present with God, to fill yourself up. I just think it’s more than two or three weeks.

Tony (31:08):

All right. So before we finish up, and you kind of alluded to this a moment ago, I don’t think we can talk about pace of life without speaking at least for a moment about technology. I mean, most of us are living almost every moment of our lives with a device, either in our hands or in our front pockets. And it seems like that’s a recipe for disaster if we’re trying to get to a healthier pace with our time. So any practical advice you can offer as it relates to that challenge?

Lance (31:38):

Yeah. I have a lot of passion around this because I think this issue, way more than we realize, has impact on the health of our souls. So, you know, I think when history is written, I think maybe John Mark Comer even talked about this, that, you know, we’ll look back at 2007 as an inflection point in history because it was when the release of the iPhone happened, right? And now what having that technology in our pocket every hour, every day, the impact it has on our brains and our relationships and our focus is mind boggling. So one thing I would say to listeners, like you should pay attention to this and I want to give you two or three kind of like things you should look at. Like I would say you should watch the documentary called Social Dilemma. It’s mind boggling and a little scary. I would also encourage you to read Cal Newport’s book, “Digital Minimalism,” and Nicholas Carr’s book, even though it’s a little dated, it’s still super helpful, called “The Shallows.” But I do think for me, in the soul care world, this has huge implications for the health of my soul because my phone and the constant distraction has implications for my ability to pay attention, to actually pray, to read my Bible, to meditate, to practice silence and solitude, or even to be present in a conversation. And so, you know, man, we can spend a whole podcast on this, and we know we’re not gonna go back. We’re not gonna all go out and burn our iPhones, but we better learn how to manage them better. And I think that’s at three levels, just my own personal management of it for Lance as a soul and a human being, how it plays out in my family with my spouse and my kids and then the implications it has even for our teams at church. And so I would say, man, just get aggressive and have some good practices around unplugging and disconnecting from your phone. Maybe you should give your phone a sabbath.

Tony (33:44):

All right. So as we wrap up, I mean, you mentioned it earlier. I just think this is a challenging season for pastors in many ways, but because of that, so many pastors are even considering do I wanna remain in ministry or not. And so as we wrap up today’s conversation, Lance, any final thoughts or encouragement that you could share with pastors and church leaders who are listening?

Lance (34:07):

You know, gosh, as one of the old guys now, I just wish I could sit down and have a cup of coffee with everybody listening and look them in the eye and just say, thank you for staying faithful to Jesus and faithful to the church. Thank you for serving down in the trenches in probably what is one of the most complex moments in the history of the church, and it’s worth it. It matters, and what you do matters. And the gospel still has power, and the church is the hope of the world. And so thank you for what you do. And then I would say, and along the way, don’t forget to become a student of your own soul, of your inner life, pay attention to what’s going on inside of you. The Christian life flows from the inside to the outside. Jesus talked about that a lot. And then just my mind goes to Deuteronomy 30, the last phrase of the whole chapter. As God has invited them into this amazing life, he finishes the chapter with these words: “For the Lord is your life.” And I would just say to pastors today, the church isn’t your life. Ministry is not your life. Jesus is your life. And when you can get that one at the center, now you could do ministry out of the overflow of that. So let him be first and center of everything.

Tony (35:41):

Hey, Amy, before we wrap up this conversation, did you listen to bad Christian music back in the eighties?

Amy (35:47):

Well, Tony, my name is Amy, and I grew up in the eighties. So of course I listened to Amy Grant. Every one of her albums. El Shaddai. Yeah, I’m dating myself now. Well, Tony, there was so much good content in that conversation you had with Lance. It’s probably hard to pick, but what stood out to you from the conversation?

Tony (36:11):

Well, after we were done recording, I actually told Lance that what he had to share was just so helpful. And it was like, he was just dropping truth bombs on us, one right after another, throughout the conversation. I mean he had, he did, he had so many practical thoughts, but here’s the big takeaway for me. We have to take control of our calendars. We have to be the boss of our schedules rather than letting the pace of life dictate the health of our bodies, our minds and our souls. And with that, I’m really more convicted than ever that embracing boundaries with technology, practicing a daily time with God and then setting aside one day a week to stop and take a Sabbath, that’s essential, especially for those of us who are shepherding other people in the faith.

Amy (37:01):

It’s a good summary. It brings me back to a few months ago, Tony, when we looked at all of our results from the Unstuck Teams assessment, and the second worst score out of 72 questions was “I regularly take a Sabbath.” So thanks for emphasizing that. Any other final thoughts, Tony, before we wrap up today’s conversation?

Tony (37:19):

Yeah, again, this is normally where I would encourage you to reach out to The Unstuck Group to help you with strategies in your leadership and in your ministry, but that’s not my priority over the next several weeks. Instead, my focus is on helping you get healthy. So if I could challenge you to take one next step out of today’s conversation, it would be that you would figure out what you need to do to take control of your calendars and create space for God to do the work in you that only he can do in your soul. And start with putting some boundaries around your technology or beginning again that practice of a daily time with God or setting aside and protecting one day a week to stop working. And you can do this. No one is forcing you to live and lead at an unhealthy pace. You can be the boss of your time. And then by the way, next week, I hope you’ll come back and join us. Sandra Stanley. That’s right. She’s Andy Stanley’s wife. Sandra’s gonna be with us to talk more about caring for your soul, and trust me, you really don’t want to miss that. So please come back for that conversation. And again, if this has been helpful for you, please share this episode with a friend.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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