Here is a good story to illustrate this difference. Imagine a group of people cutting through a jungle. The managers are right there, making sure things are going smoothly – organising rosters, providing the sharp machetes, arranging regular rest breaks, ensuring adequate first-aid facilities, etc. The leader is the person who climbs a tree, looks around and yells, “Wrong Jungle!” But the managers respond by saying, “But we’re making such progress!” Yes, they’re making progress, but go fast in the wrong direction is not true progress!
For me, life in the ministry can be a bit like a jungle. There’s so much to do, so little time to do it in, the work is hard going most of the time and the pressure can become intense. I have found great benefit in scheduling a regular “Climb A Tree” day. I have been doing this monthly for many years now and it is one of my favourite habits of effectiveness. What I do is schedule one day for each month of the year where I “retreat”. I don’t prepare sermons on this day. I spend it totally by myself and I try to get out of the office (either go for a drive in the car or a walk in a park). I spend the day reflecting back over the previous month and asking myself some key questions such as, “Father, what are you saying to me right now?” “How am I doing … as a husband, father, pastor, leader …?” “What’s going well?” “What needs to change?” I then look forward to the coming month and do some prayerful planning and preparation for the future.
I record my thoughts in a notebook or journal. Writing things down helps you to focus (your mind can’t wander when you’re writing!) and it also gives you a record of what God says to you so you can review it later on (I usually review my journal from the previous month as part of this day).
The accumulated years of regularly doing this month after month give you a sense of continuity and progress as you see God’s work in your life. I come away from these days rejuvenated and with a clear fresh mind ready to face the coming month. By the way, I discovered that this is a Biblical concept. Not only were there weekly Sabbath rest days in Israel. Every New Moon was a special holy day or festival, like the Sabbath, for God’s people (Num.10:10. Ps.81:3). They were not to work on these days but were to offer special offerings and I imagine they took time to reflect on the previous month and get ready for the next one. Hey, God thought of it first.
The best gift you can give your church is you being a healthy leader. Climbing a tree every now and then makes sure you don’t get lost (or eaten!) in the jungle. Take time to look at your spiritual compass (where you’re headed) not just the clock (how fast you’re going).
Jesus did this regularly and I believe it was the key to his focus and his effectiveness. After all, at the end of only three and a half years, he was able to say, “It is finished!” Wow, wouldn’t that be great. He didn’t do everything that could have been done but he knew what he was called to do and he did that alone.