Saturday, May 30, 2009

No balance

One of the leaders of Youth Specialties, a large resource for youth ministry in the Christian church, recently announced that he was cutting out Facebook, Twitter, and blogging because of a re-evaluation of priorities in his life. Good for him.

Several of the comments he received pleaded with him to reconsider. At least one of them (I didn’t read them all) appealed to the goal of “balance” as the solution to continuing these activities. You don’t have to quit altogether, said he, but just scale back.

I have three responses to this:

seriously?!? This guy’s just announced that he has prayerfully considered how he uses his time, and he’s giving up three online time-sponges in order to spend more time on his ministry and with his family. You want him to reconsider because you’d miss reading his blog? (And this is from people who work in vocational ministry...) I don’t have any problem with any of those activities, but I both understand and respect when people thoughtfully decide to purge them from their lives.

Second-- there are dozens of online “social” tools available (and more daily, it seems), and all of them have some value and purpose. But two things stand out to me in this vein: first, if you can’t articulate a good reason (even if it is, “harmless fun”) for using any one of them, then you’re wasting your time. Second, if you’re using them just to “build your brand” then I think you ought to take a closer look at the Scriptures and consider whether “building your personal brand” has anything to do with discipleship.

Third-- and this is the main point: people talk to me often about “balance” in their lives. Some are folks I minister to, others are people I consult with (because I do some consulting in addition to pastoral ministry, and that sometimes includes consulting about “productivity”), and a unifying fact about all of them is that they have too much going on in their lives. The popular solution to this in today’s culture is to look for “balance.”

But as I read the Bible I see nothing whatsoever about balance. Sure, you could argue that the texts on stewardship apply to time as well-- and they do-- but that doesn’t amount to a Divine declaration in favor of balance. In fact, there really isn’t a warrant for balance even in the stewardship texts.

What I see in the Bible is this:
learn what are the priorities of the Kingdom, and utterly abandon everything that isn’t them.

If you’re looking for balance, here’s how you accomplish it in a biblical way: cut out some of the busyness that has little or no real value, and suddenly your life will feel balanced. Discern what God has created and called you to do and be, and stop trying to do or be more than this. Spend your time on what God declares to be important, and you won’t feel imbalanced.

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