There is a danger in the Christian life. I’ve seen it again and again in young people and families and others; it’s the Christian life lived as a rollercoaster. They slog through the year with their jobs and school, average church with an average pastor who preaches average sermons. Life has its ups and downs and becomes about making it through. Church is there, it’s a part of life, they serve there, though there are some Sundays when they wish church felt a bit more significant, that it was a bit bigger, or a bit better. They may even begin to drift and let other things creep in.
What gets them through and gives them a boost is the Christian conference they go to every year with its big band worship, great preachers, and brilliant youth work for the kids. That’s the high point, that’s the point in the year that peaks for them. That’s where they feel spiritually vibrant, it’s what they wish the rest of the year looked like, and they often resolve that this year will be different as they go back. But soon they’re back in the mundane and the normal and there’s that drift and the busyness, and work, and sickness, and family and soon life is bumping along the bottom again. But there’s always the next time, the next year..
I’ve had loads of conversations with young people about that; camp, Word Alive, Keswick, or New Wine is the week. or weeks. when they feel alive spiritually. It’s the high before the descent into the norm where the struggle to follow Jesus is so much harder. I’ve had that conversion with lots of adults too, who just wish normal life could be a bit more like that week!
And church leaders are no different. I’ve just come back from the Medhurst Ministers retreat in Pollington. And it’s a refreshing couple of days of teaching, laughing, encouraging and relaxing with others in ministry in the UK’s forgotten places. The danger is that it becomes a ministry high point on the rollercoaster ride that ministry so easily becomes. But I was asked this year to look at Philippians 4 in one of the sessions, about joy in keeping going with the gospel.
I’m going to publish some of the material from that with some thoughts over the next few posts. In part because one of my convictions is that we don’t really rejoice enough because we do rollercoaster life and ministry – we settle for a relatively low bar normally and rely on a few high points to keep us going, often struggling up what feels like a long uphill before we get to that week. But here’s the danger with that – rollercoaster ministry is unhealthy in the short term but disastrous in the long term. It leads to disillusionment, spiritual malnourishment and burn out.
But just be honest as we start. What keeps you going following Jesus? What keeps you going if you lead? And is that healthy or unhealthy? Where does your spiritual life and leadership resemble a rollercoaster? And finally where is your joy?