At 33, Ethan is already on the edge of burnout. Although he is popular, strong, and gifted, the warning signs are evident. He's serving a rapidly growing church, teaching every week, leading worship, and trying to balance ministry and his family of four young children. The demands of life and ministry have Ethan scrambling. While attending a leadership retreat, Ethan explained his inability to fall asleep at night without watching recorded programs on his iPod. He's addicted to noise and cannot quiet his soul.
To his credit, Ethan has started a journey toward simplicity. It's going to be a long road and his addiction to noise and chaos will not be overcome easily. But like many other church leaders, he recognizes the health of his ministry and his soul are at stake.
We all long for simplicity, and it has become a very cool topic. Real Simple magazine, for example, will tell you how to organize your closets, unclutter your garage, and even how to leave your high-pressure job in the city and move to Montana to start a lavender farm, which then finds amazing success and eventually goes public, requiring another downsizing. The popular message is this: embracing simplicity will make your life more manageable and more enjoyable.
Among church leaders I have seen the subject of simplicity elicit two very different responses. Raise the idea and some folks' shoulders drop and their facial features soften, like an exhausted athlete who finally sits on the bench to rest. Sometimes they even appear a bit too eager to slash the schedule, quit the committees, and exit the stress. Others react in the opposite way. They erect defenses. They defend their crazy schedules and their busy (read: important) lives. It appears that without the chaos ...