Living by The Well


We are coming up for 24 years in Christian leadership this year. Almost half of my life I’ve been leading churches or Christian organizations of some sort or other. We started as we got married and apart from a few extended breaks we have been at it non stop for that time.

In the early years I would run like crazy, crashing my way thru whatever I found difficult and cleaning up the mess afterwards (or not). When it came to re-energising and living sustainably I didn’t really think about it. I was young, determined and tireless. But I was also like the sprinter with no form. Lots of body parts flailing wildly, but the actual forward movement was not that exciting.

As time went on and our marriage took some massive hits as a result of my workaholism I started to become quite disciplined with my re-charging. Regular sabbaths, a scheduled and fairly non negotiable day off during the week as well as time to go off in retreats formed the basis of my re-energising. This worked and got some sanity back in our lives but it was a discipline because I still felt compelled to change the world.

In this phase of life I seem to have changed tack yet again. The shift has been  more intuitive than intentional but as I was talking with friends the other day I found myself describing how we recharge these days like this: 

Rather than taking time out to go ‘back to the well’ we now seek to ‘live by the well’. 

We aim to live in such a way and at such a pace that we are close to the source of life and able to draw from him as needed. It inevitably means fewer ‘mountain top’ experiences but it also means fewer times of significant disconnection and wandering into unhealthy places.

When I say ‘living by the well’ I’m simply speaking of a way of approaching life that is more integrated and seamless, rather than segmented into work and rest. It’s not without its challenges because when life does get busy we don’t have strict schedules to protect us, but the reality is that we are much at better at managing our time and being careful with what we say yes to.

I think different approaches to sustainability work for different people – and may be appropriate for different stages of life – but I find where we live now and the way we allow life to flow together has helped us become more whole as people as well as allowing our leadership to be less driven and a whole lot more attractive.

I wish I’d known how to live a more integrated life at 30, but then I think I would have perceived me as lazy then…

Besides Everything Else

As our plane landed a couple of weeks ago I felt a tangible weight descend on me, a heaviness that wasn’t there while we were tripping around Bali. I couldn’t articulate it at first. I just attributed it to ‘going back to work’, to re-entering normality, but its been sitting there for a while now and I think I know what it is.

in 2 Corinthians 11 Paul is defending his apostleship and listing the various challenges he has endured as part of his calling. Then in verse 28 he changes tack from the outward afflictions to write:

28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

I think that’s a bit of what I have been feeling. I guess its what every church leader feels – a deep, daily responsibility for the people we are called to lead, shepherd and equip.

As I woke yesterday morning and headed off to church I went dutifully as I just didn’t feel like it. I was weary, feeling like avoiding people and yet my ‘job’ meant I couldn’t skip it and have a quiet mope at home. And then I was scheduled to preach too… I was thinking ‘I really don’t want to do this today… or any more… for that matter…’

Then as we sat in church and sang some songs, gathered with the crew and re-entered the community I felt myself shedding some tears. Because it was good to be there. Really good. It was coming home. Being with the family. With the people I love, sharing in worship.

But therein is the struggle.

The ‘heaviness’ I felt descend when our plane hit the ground was the weight of responsibility. Paul calls it his ‘daily concern for all the churches’ and while we only lead one community I sense his emotion. When someone is weak we feel it. When someone screws up we feel it. Of course when someone has a win we feel it too and that is wonderful.

But… there’s no avoiding the weight of responsibility and concern that goes with leading a community. Its a completely intangible thing, but I believe its the most important thing Danelle and I do as part of our role. We care. We think about the community. We notice stuff. We attend to things.

And I know everyone does that to some degree. But for those of us who are called to the roles of leaders and shepherds the bar gets raised – and I don’t mean by the expectations of others, or because we are paid – but simply because this is where our heart is aligned.

Its a good thing.

Its a good thing to feel that weight of concern, but lately its felt heavier than usual. There isn’t much going on that is particularly draining, so I wonder if its a cumulative thing? If 5 years of leading has worn us down a bit?

We have been discussing the option of taking 6-12 months off next year and re-energising. A sabbatical of sorts, but we’re not sure what form it will take. For now we carry on and we do what we do knowing that some months are ‘heavier’ than others and that these things come and go.

So this isn’t a whinge or a cry for attention. I’m not seeking sympathy or answers. Its just an observation that leadership in Christian community at times carries an intangible weight. We are blessed and privileged to do what we do, and I can’t imagine a life where I don’t lead a church community, but we may be moving towards taking a deep breath and a long drink.






Multiplying Effect

ripple_effectOn December 17th we headed off to Bali for what was a mixture of family holiday and church trip connecting with the various orphanages we support.

On the Sunday before we left an older couple in church gave each of our kids $50.00 each. But they gave it to them to give away as they saw fit. They asked them to watch and pray and see what God was doing and to use the money for whatever they felt was appropriate.

I was inspired by their creative initiative. They didn’t just give $100 to someone – they gave our kids the opportunity to reflect, to pray and to manage money wisely. They helped someone out, but they also helped form spiritual awareness in younger people in their community.

As you can imagine it created some interesting conversations and discussions about what would be the best use of the money. And surprisingly, in a country where there is no shortage of poverty, it wasn’t a straightforward decision as to where to give the money.

We spoke with them about discerning need, about wise giving, about how God may be speaking.  It was a valuable exercise in many ways and in the end a need arose that both kids felt was suitable and the $100 was given to one person – a month’s wages for her and a massive help to her family.

The point though is that the choice by this older couple to creatively use their funds meant that they actually achieved far more than they would have just by giving the money to a fund.

Someone in need got the money, our kids got to work thru the process, we got to disciple them in that and of course you are reading about it now and thinking ‘we could do that…’



Holiday Reading

So here’s what I have been reading over January… In this order







My mate Stu recommended this one. A fair read, but didn’t go where I thought it might. Not much to say about this one.










This bloke was a legend when I was a kid and I thought it would be interesting to hear about his life. It was well written, but did tend to put George on a pedestal. While it acknowledged his flaws you never felt like there was much of a critique of his life – more of an explanation. I enjoyed it, but more for the nostaglia than the balanced treatment of the subject.









Same subject but this time written from the point of view of his sister. I thought it would be interesting to hear a ‘non-professional’ perspective on Best. It was ok, but definitely read like the lament of a sister.










When a leading evangelical ethicist changes his mind on how he sees homosexuality then its worth a read. This is a short and very readable book and a good intro the issue. I didn’t find it convincing on its own, but it did cause me to begin re-thinking.










I thought another biography would be good and given I was planning on launching into some weighty subject matter I figured this would be worth a read. And it was. Its quite explicit in parts so be aware of that, but I think that actually allows you to feel some of the pain. I appreciated an insider story of life as a gay Christian man and the struggle that accompanies that situation.









This one’s been recommended a few times and with good reason. Its a strong case for a revisionist view of homosexuality. I didn’t find it the easiest book to follow, but I thought Brownson made some good points and he has pushed my thinking some more.









This one was a ‘two views’ type of book – one for and one against. I didn’t find Via’s arguments very strong at all, and Gagnon was much stronger albeit dry and boring as hell.

So that’s my holiday reading…