Today’s interview is with Chris Maxwell. Chris is the Director of Spiritual Life and Campus Pastor of Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs. He is the author of multiple books including the Pause series; the third installment of which: Pause for Pastors: Finding Still Waters in the Storm of Ministry, comes out this fall. Today, we talk with Chris about intentional rest and serving those in the church with epilepsy.
1) The title of your book, Pause, seems antithetical to everything about modern society. It seems we work hard to avoid any kind of silence or solitude. What is this doing to us?
Yes, the adventure of the human “race.” We multi-task in our hi-tech world, and use all means possible to do as much as possible as quickly as possible . . . to then have time to do more.
What it often does to us is rob us of the moments. We set goals for great accomplishments. We establish plans and hurry our way there to achieve such plans with perfection. Those aren’t wrong practices in themselves but they become very wrong as we hurry from one achievement to another and miss all the beauty beside us. The stillness of God. The wonder of his world. Words and faces, clouds and stars, songs and stories, Scripture and conversations. We miss the moments in this hurried pace of doing, then doing a little more, then doing a little better.
It shoves us toward lives based on doing instead of being. It also guides us toward unhealthy lives of too much stress, too little rest, and too few moments of being led beside the still waters.
To sit with a friend and say nothing seems like wasted time. To sit with God and say nothing seems like wasted time. Learning to adore and pursue the wonder of nothingness, the contentment of stillness, the magnificence of silence are tasks we all should chase.
2) Ironically, it sometimes seems like those in ministry are the least likely to pause, with a busy workload caring for others. Why it is so important for leaders to find times of solitude?
There are so many times I have let what I do for God take the place of being with God.
When I first started serving as a lead pastor, I did not want to do that. I set aside time for personal spiritual formation. But, over the years, things changed. I needed to do more and accomplish more. People needed me – or, maybe I needed to be needed. We live in a driven, obsessed world even in church business. Fortunately, I learned the importance of returning to pause. The books in this series – Pause, Pause for Moms, and Pause for Pastors – come from my heart and the hearts of other writers who hope to remind ourselves and others about the now. As I wrote this book, along with stories from a variety of other pastors, we invited ministers to slow the pace and find the beauty of now.
I had a few advantages in my 19 years of pastoring. Our congregation allowed me space. My family was a priority. But I also had a team of accountability partners who didn’t care about my sermons or books or attendance – they focused on soul care, on my priorities, on my health, on my motives. They asked me difficult questions. So many pastors live without that.
It is important for pastors to find – that doesn’t mean waiting for such times to just show up; it means planning unplanned time and scheduling unhurried Sabbath moments. We can only care for others if we take care of ourselves. And, our beliefs tell us that true formation and soul care occurs in those moments when we apply the disciplines – not to impress God or improve our status, but to engage in healthy relational dialogue with our true Father. We talk to him and we sing to him and we listen to him. We choose to just sit with him. We read his words not just to prepare a sermon but to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2).