When I ask people how they are doing, around 70% of the time the answer has something to do with being busy or hectic. Someone just told me last week that it has been several weeks since his whole family sat down for a meal. I also just saw the July calendar for a church, which consisted of about 20 different groups/clubs/meetings (not including the worship services!). Add the job and family schedules to the July calendar, and you’ve got a killer month.
[Side note: Sometimes I think part of my pastoral duty to God’s people is to get them to slow down and fight against the cultural norm of constant busyness. I’m convinced that constant busyness squeezes wonder, mystery, joy, and amazement right out of the Christian life.]
Tim Chester’s The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness (Nottingham: IVP, 2006) is an awesome book for you if you describe your life as a whirlwind. This book is exactly what busy Christians need to read. Some busyness is unavoidable, of course, but habitual or non-stop busyness is a signal that something is out of kilter in the Christian life. Chester digs into this “out of kilter” aspect, asking some good questions about our time, priorities, and the heart’s ultimate desires.
If the clock, cell phone, email, or texting controls your life, if you constantly say “yes” when people ask you to do something, if your prayer life stinks because you’re too tired and busy to pray, if you have little quality family time, and if you’re a control freak who needs to have everything in order all the time, you seriously need to get this book. The book is also for those who find identity in “doing,” who always try to meet people’s expectations, who try to prove things to themselves by busyness, and who work for more and more cash because they love it.
One awesome section of this book is where Chester talked about seeking first God’s kingdom. He says that usually our lives are shaped this way: we first decide the lifestyle we want, then we choose a job to help us get that lifestyle, then we get a home to help support that lifestyle. After that, we find a church that won’t intrude too much on that lifestyle (it supports the lifestyle of our choice), and then because we feel obligated, we tack on some sort of church work or “ministry.” But, Chester well argues, this is exactly backwards. He calls it “leftover discipleship.” “My time for Christian ministry and Christian community comes from whatever is left over at the end of the week” (p. 55). We tend to think of Sunday as part of the weekend instead of the first day of the week. Church/sabbath/worship is the weekly footnote of our lives.
Chester says we should be building our life around our church community instead of our lifestyle choice and job. This doesn’t mean doing church stuff all week (in fact, those busy churches with 47 weekly programs sometimes hinder discipleship and spiritual growth), but it does mean worship and Christian fellowship should form the core of our life. When we get this, we’ll see how we can serve Jesus even at work, at home, and at play. “Discipleship means living for Jesus and letting everything else fit around that” (p. 57).
I’ll come back to this book in the future. For now, please take my advice and get this book if you’re super-busy! If you’re interested, there’s a video summary of this book on Chester’s Amazon author page. I think I’ll get a few extra copies of this and pass them around to the people in the pews here and other friends/family of mine. Meanwhile, since I loved this book, I think I’ll check out Chester’s book called Total Church.