The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness

More information 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.

shane lems

10 thoughts on “The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness”

  1. This is terrific…and something my wife and I have been wrestling with. The section about the backwards way we seek the kingdom seems to describe the vast majority of American evangelicals.


  2. Stephen: since I know your reading habits a bit (seeing your blog from time to time), I’m pretty sure you’d really love this book. It will really be helpful in the discussions you and your wife have about these things – furthermore, it is easy and short enough for you to both read in a short period of time (which won’t increase your busyness!).



  3. Hi Shane,

    Sounds like an interesting read. How would he define “Kindgom work” and how does he relate it to common grace and our vocation as Christians being more than simply to do ‘Gospel’ work, i.e. be involved in Church activities?


    1. Thanks for the question, Richard.

      He doesn’t really use those terms you asked about (kingdom work and common grace), but he is pretty clear that Christians have normal, daily tasks to do because God put them there to do those certain tasks. There may be some minor things I would put differently than him, but they are so minor they don’t detract from the book at all. The main/big points are helpful and good.



  4. Hi Shane, will definitely check it out. Would he accept that as a Christian who is employed there is a case to be made that there in a choice between leading a housegroup Bible study and working there is a good case to be made that actally my vocation is to make sure I do a good job for my employer. I suppose I am wary of his placing ‘Church activity’ as THE most important thing which is the impression I got from your post, happy to be wrong though!


    1. Yes, I think he was pretty well focused on our daily calling to whatever task the Lord has appointed us to do (he talked about changing nappies a lot, sort of like Luther).

      The main thrust of the book was about normal people working normal jobs. He wasn’t calling them away from “normal” jobs to do more church-busy-ministry stuff, he was calling them to glorify God in their daily vocations by getting priorites straight. Here’s one quote that may help. He says that building our lives around church/worship “doesn’t mean only doing ‘churchly’ things. Your priority may be serving God in the workplace or neighbourhood.” But the church/worship shouldn’t be the footnote in our lives.

      Again, though I may quibble with some minor parts of his vocab/use of terms, overall the whole book is more than helpful.

      Thanks for the comments, Richard.



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