Spiritual Performances

Recently, I went back to an old blog and was reviewing some old posts. It seemed like I had so many good things to say, so many good things to communicate. I felt so vulnerable and honest.

And then I became a pastor. When you get paid to talk about God and spirituality, it shifts your perspective a little. You have to wrestle with weird questions like:

  • Am I reading this Scripture for myself or so that I have something to say?
  • Am I listening to the Bible because I want to or feel like I’m supposed to?
  • Should my personal prayer life be separate than when I pray for my churches?
  • Where is the line between the spirituality of my job and the spirituality of my personal life?
  • How can I be fed spiritually? When do I get fed spiritually?
  • What is the point of ministry? What am I trying to accomplish?
  • When you get paid to be spiritual, how do you avoid mere religious performance?

As I write this, I realize that for many who are not pastors, but spend week after week working in church, these questions might sound familiar. How do we keep authenticity in ministry? We’re told as theology majors to use our personal devotions to find sermon topics. How in the world do you keep that separate? When you are on the stage every single week, how do you maintain vulnerability in your spirituality?

In most fundamental and conservative religions, like Adventism, there is an expectation of “spiritual behavior.” Once someone becomes and elder, head deaconess, spiritual group leader, or pastor something changes in our expectations of them. If we are the ones accepting that position, oftentimes our work for the church can take over our spirituality.

Authenticity and vulnerability often disappear when we take spiritual leadership roles.

Mostly, I think it is because we are afraid. We believe the lie that to be called to a position means we are “supposed to be” something other than what we are. We get afraid to talk about the things we are wrestling with or the problems in our lives. Our personal spirituality often gets hijacked by what we are “supposed to be” doing.

And that leads to spiritual burnout.

My call to you today is to re-create that separation between church work and your personal spirituality. Take time today, in the car, in your room, even in the bathroom to ask God to help you rejuvenate your spiritual life–and not just for the doing…

for the being.