By / Jan 27

Are you a woman whose life is aimless, hurried, frenetic or just flat-out impossible? If so, you’re the very one Alli Worthington had in mind when writing Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy. In her new release, this wife, mother of five and executive director of Propel Women draws from her life experiences, research and the Bible to help women break the cycle of “crazy busy.” She sketches out a framework women can use to find God’s purpose for their life instead of succumbing to the relentless, runaway pace of today’s culture.

How she does it

Worthington is a winsome writer and skilled at keeping things practical. Her easy-to-read style and manageable book sections allow busy women to read smaller portions on the go. And her humor and transparency keep you easily engaged.

Worthington starts her book by setting a helpful paradigm for what it means to function “within capacity.” And the personal stories from her former chaotic routine assure you that she “gets it.” She lays out seven diagnostic warning signs to help women discover if they’re living within their God-given capacity. And she poses several questions to help women gauge their personal limits and embrace them. From the beginning, Worthington encourages honest self-reflection about what motivates your crazy busy life by sharing the ins and outs of her own story.

Worthington then spends the remainder of the book guiding the reader through an exploration to find “our sweet spot”: the place where one is operating at their best and fulfilling their “God-given destiny.” She explores nine areas to consider when making choices toward a more balanced life, covering a range of topics from relationships and a personal sense of calling to time management and communication styles. Each chapter concludes with a list of action steps to implement. But in the midst of the practical, Worthington does not lose sight of how a woman’s heart and mind work. She speaks to the inner fears and challenges common to women and closes her book by highlighting how the feelings of shame and worth powerfully influence our lives.

Great take-aways

One of the best features of this book is its practicality. Alli Worthington is truly gifted at breaking down concepts into accessible approaches to life. And she loves lists. So if you’re a bullet point-person, you will love the organization of her thinking through the crazy business of life.

Also, the overall mission of this book is praiseworthy. Women without friends to ask heels-on-the-ground questions about gifts and abilities will find a friend in Worthington and her practical wisdom. The author has planted deep roots in the growing field of life management, and this book bears some good fruit. But it’s Worthington’s transparency that makes her so helpful here. She’s refreshingly open about her family’s challenges and the heart work the Lord has done during those critical times. She teaches by example that “breaking busy” includes honesty before the Lord, others and ourselves.

Pump the brakes on breaking busy

Breaking Busy is marketed as using “solid biblical principles” from a “Christian worldview.” Yet the book’s perspective on knowing God and his will is the greatest cause for concern. To be sure, Alli Worthington’s love for the Lord is evident and sincere. She wants her readers to seek God’s will versus their own agenda. And she uses Scripture references throughout the book, offering helpful examples of applying biblical truth during personal trials. So, you may ask, “What’s the problem?”

The concern lies in Worthington’s paradigm for how one knows God’s will. More than once she testifies to hearing God speak specific messages to her in prayer. Worthington does not claim to hear God’s audible voice. She does, however, claim to understand specific, personal words from God through “nudges” or “senses” that seem to be disconnected from Scripture. One key example is when she felt the Lord telling her to quit the company she began. Worthington states that during a prayer time she “clearly felt God nudge me with two words, ‘Quit Blissdom.’” A second example occurred while deciding whether to take her current position with Propel Women. When describing her prayer time, she says, “As clear as day, I sensed the answer. It was very simple: ‘Do it.’”

Could these examples be just two exceptions to Worthington’s view on knowing the will of God? Unfortunately, it seems the examples are part of a pattern. In chapter two, Worthington aligns her personal paradigm in listening to God with Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling. The substantial quote depicts a God who speaks subjectively through any means possible: the sun, the wind, faces of loved ones or in the “depths of your spirit.” The problem here is not with the Spirit speaking to God’s people, but hearing direction from God apart from Scripture and yet on par with Scripture. (Tim Challies and Michael Horton have carefully criticized this problem in their reviews of Jesus Calling.)

Regrettably, then, Worthington’s understanding of prayer runs the risk of bypassing the primary means for divine encouragement and direction. The Word of God is the only word that is promised to transform the heart and mind of a believer. But we are told in Scripture that God’s written Word is better, “more confirmed,” than any audible message (2 Pet. 1:16-21).  

Worthington does makes true statements about the Christian life and even appropriately applies Scripture at times. But, even then, she generally maintains a 30,000 foot view of the Bible that leads her to misinterpret and misapply it in on a number of occasions. For example, during her chapter on “Editing,” she teaches that God edited Christ’s life and that his agony in Gethsemane was a struggling over a “new calling”—as if crucifixion was a new idea to Christ. Yet from the Old Testament forward, Scripture is clear that Christ’s purpose was always to die for his people, with Christ himself speaking of his own death, burial, and resurrection from the beginning of his earthly ministry (see Isa. 53; John 2:18-22; 3:14; 12:27-33). It’s what makes Christ’s willful condescension so gloriously humble!

Finally, Worthington does not distinguish clearly between believers and unbelievers when it comes to claiming God’s promises. So, when she encourages women to find their worth in God or cast their cares on him during anxious moments, Worthington seems to assume that God’s covenant promises apply to all people in the same way. This message may not be intentional. But without a ground-level view of Scripture, this kind of universal encouragement can lead to confusion and discouragement for those who do not know Christ—even a distraction from their deepest need for him.

Why it matters

Maintaining a bird’s-eye view of the Scriptures causes the reader to miss the biblical contours that explain how God prepares his people for  “breaking [free of] busy.” Our “God-given destiny” is “to proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

God has given us pastors, deacons, Sunday School teachers and fellow church members to confirm his gifts and capacities he gives us so that we can glorify Christ in our calling and in every occupation. And this same church community helps us grow in God’s wisdom as God’s Word in Scripture transforms our hearts and minds. It’s by this Word-fueled transformation we are best equipped to make life choices that free us from “crazy busy.” Then the greatest joy is realized, by using these gifts in this new-found freedom, when we all grow up together to look more and more like Jesus.

What now?

Though the concerns with Worthington’s book are significant, it still stands that Breaking Busy offers much practical wisdom that will be useful to many women. And the reader will benefit from Worthington’s heart for others to live a fuller, more purposeful life that is pleasing to the Lord. For a believer who is well grounded in the Word, I would recommend this book to be read with discernment and appreciation for its practical and profitable insights. A younger believer is encouraged to read it with someone to provide further instruction about seeking the Lord and his will.  For more resources on knowing God’s will through the Scriptures see Kevin DeYoung’s book Just Do Something or the following TGC resources.

By / Jul 8

It was a busy day of ministry. Five thousand people covered the hillside where Jesus taught, not including women and children. Evening was coming on fast, and the people were hungry. So Jesus fed them food from a boy’s lunch of two small fish and five loaves of bread. Scripture tells us that, “after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone” (Matt. 14:23).

Ministry and burnout

The demands of ministry haven’t changed much in the last two thousand years. Ministry remains a 24/7 job.  That’s because crises don’t fit neatly into a 9 to 5 schedule. The needs of church members are constant. Indeed, many happen in the middle of the night or when the pastor is on vacation with his family. The life of ministry can be draining and demanding, leaving little time for rest and refreshment.  

In addition, there are high expectations that come with a life of ministry.  People expect ministry leaders to know the answer to every question, fix every marriage and engage every lost soul. And they want pastors to prepare a challenging, yet not too convicting sermon each and every week. The church budget is always stretched thin, and the needs only continue to grow. Someone is always dissatisfied with the songs chosen for worship and, of course, an announcement was left out of last week’s church bulletin. Don’t forget that there are never enough volunteers to serve in the nursery.

For those who work in full time ministry serving our local churches, such as pastors, leaders of church ministries, and counselors, burnout is a common problem. The pressures of ministry, combined with how many hours these leaders pour into their work, can lead many to feel hopeless, overwhelmed, discouraged, unmotivated, cynical, unproductive, and sometimes even depressed. Such burnout trickles over into their family life, creating tension and strife at home. Many statistics report high numbers of pastors leaving the ministry, some as high as 1,700 a month, and often because of burnout.

Burnout prevention

As church members, we need to help and encourage our ministry leaders. We can’t expect them to be superhuman. Here are a few things to consider about burnout prevention:

1.  Ministry leaders need rest (both physical and spiritual). As we saw in Matthew 14, even our Savior had physical limitations in his humanity. His body grew tired. He needed time away from his work to rest and pray. Just as our Lord took time away from the work of ministry, ministry leaders need to do the same. We need to provide ways for them to do so. In America, we call it vacation. Americans are known for neglecting to use their vacation time. Those who work in ministry are no exception. We need to encourage them to take regular breaks and even sabbaticals.  

2. Ministry leaders need friendships. It is hard for ministry leaders to have real, deep, authentic friendships within their own churches. After all, they are helping everyone else in the church with their problems.  But those who serve us in ministry need deep friendships of their own. It is important that we encourage our ministry leaders to invest in friendships where they have the freedom to share common experiences, voice their struggles and burdens, and receive accountability. It may mean that they have to seek such friendships in other churches in the community.

3. Ministry leaders need help. It is important that ministry leaders and we, as church members, realize that ministry leaders can’t do everything. They are not God. They are not all-knowing. They are not all-powerful. They can’t be everywhere at once and meet the needs of every person who asks for their help. They are finite and human with limited energy and resources. This means that church members need to step in and help. Ephesians 4:12 tell us that the job of the pastor is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. It is the church members, not the pastors alone, who are to do the work of ministry. If every church member did their part, the weight of ministry would not fall onto one person. Let us reach out to our ministry leaders and offer our help.

4. Ministry leaders need realistic expectations. Ministry leaders need realistic expectations of themselves, and church members need to have realistic expectations for them. Ministry leaders often work more hours than any of us would be willing to. We need to carefully consider the demands and expectations we place on our church leaders, remembering that they are only human. This brings us back to number three.

5. Remember the needs of their family. We often forget the needs of our church leader’s family. They usually receive what’s leftover at the end of the long day. They are the ones who suffer when the pastor works countless hours a week, is constantly criticized by church members, or when he is discouraged by conflict and tension in the church. Let us consider how we can help and encourage the family of our church leaders.

Church ministry is an important calling. We need our church leaders. But the demands of church ministry are high. As church members, let us not knowingly contribute to the pressure, unrealistic expectations, and demands of ministry. Instead, may we help and encourage them for we are all members of the same Body, that is, Christ our Lord.  

By / Apr 15

Have you noticed that a common claim among the millennial generation is that many of them are "burned out"? Blog posts are popping up everywhere voicing concerns over burnout and giving people various ways to avoid this feared state. While being burned out is certainly not something we should desire for ourselves or others, I'm confused by this generation’s serious focus on this subject.

I never, ever heard my dad or grandfather claim they were “burned out” by their jobs, responsibilities or commitments, which were numerous. I'm not even certain they would know what burnout means. They had families to support, bills to pay, a job that required they show up on time and leave at a certain time, and came home to have dinner with their families by 6:00 p.m. They had two weeks of vacation, 30 minutes to eat the lunch they brought from home, and expectations that were required to be met for their employment. They had the weekends off and spent them parenting during quality time with their family.

I am not trying to make this a generational comparison, but maybe I need to. We need to figure out exactly what is going on in our culture with a generation that has done less but claimed burnout more than any previous generation. What is going on?

Three primary factors in burnout

I think there are several realities, but overall, I think it stems from three primary factors:

1. Extended adolescence

Many millennials have never had to work a day in their life unless they wanted a little extra money to take backpacking in Europe. Getting extra money usually meant babysitting a little more or working for their dad’s friend without having to actually apply for the job.

These days, people go to graduate school for no real reason or plan—outside of the expectations of parents or the desire to stay a student rather than entering the real world. Mom and dad have usually paid for everything major, so a job is not even urgent in the eyes of many millennials. And even though they are making $30,000 a year, they are able to continue living a life at the standard of their parents’ income.

It is hard to take on adult responsibility when you have never had to possess it in any other area of life. When one has been treated as the center of the universe as a child and teen, the real world becomes a major adjustment, and the demands of a basic work schedule will seem extreme—and lead to rapid “burnout.”

The millennial generation is soft because many of them have been babied. Many Christian blog posts are focused on “slowing down” and are written and marketed to a generation that is not going as fast as they claim. They are at coffee shops and staring at their phones while having time to train for marathons. None of these are bad things, but they certainly don’t make the case for having no extra time.

2. The fear of missing out

The weather is nice outside, and your friends are spending a long weekend in New York City, shopping and Instagramming every moment, and you are frustrated that you have to work! Sure, it’s disappointing, but there are times when you have to work and not play. The millennial often convinces himself or herself that it is the employer’s or the job’s fault that he/she is missing out, when the reality is that a job is something he/she needs to provide the income for personal and family responsibilities. Millennials have vacation time available to do some playing too, but like 99% of working Americans, it is accumulated and earned. One won’t be able to travel whenever he/she wants, and that can be a hard realization.

The ever-present social media world reminds us there is always something more fun and glamorous to be doing, but those things are rarely doable unless we have income, which comes from jobs that expects us to work. Another fear prevalent among millennials is that they are not fulfilling their passions in their jobs. While it’s probably true, only a small percentage of people get to enjoy that privilege. And even fewer people get paid to do their hobbies—something millennials often expect.  

3. Misdiagnosis

I first became aware of these issues when our children's minister lost some volunteers because they claimed they were “burned out.” I was confused by these claims because the volunteers’ commitment consisted of one hour each Sunday. One hour! I hardly believe they were having issues with burnout. The diagnosis was most likely closer to simply not feeling like doing it anymore because they wanted to go to brunch with their friends. When responsibility is pressing, and the fear of missing out is at the forefront of your mind, WebMD might suggest burnout, but reality says the antidote is becoming an adult and claiming your responsibilities.

Overcoming “burnout”

So, how do we help millennials tone down the burnout talk? We must help them understand that they must live for two things: the glory and mission of God.

1. The glory of God

The glory of God is the reason those who have believed the gospel—by putting their faith in Jesus Christ—now exist. This understanding leads to a proper theology of vocation. Work existed in the pre-fallen state of man (prior to Genesis 3). Adam was given responsibility over the work of the land by God himself. It was following the entrance of sin into the world and the life of Adam that the toil and hardship of work became a reality.

While we live as redeemed people among the curse of work that still exists, our calling is to the renewal of vocation in which we seek the glory of God in our efforts. After all, the Christian should view our work as "something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that [we] will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord” (Col. 3:23-24). We serve the Lord Christ. Ultimately, the point of our work is not our passion, ambition, dreams or even income, but the glory of God.

2. The mission of God

The mission of God is also essential to understanding how the Christian is to relate to work. As believers who are called to let our light shine before others, distinction in the workplace will help point our unbelieving co-workers to a distinct God. No one has the opportunity to be around unbelievers like someone in the workplace. While many millennial Christians are quick to jump to a social cause or overseas mission trip in order to join the mission of God, we forget that this same mission exists right in front of us, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

You might not have the ideal job, but for the Christian, it is never "just a job." The glory and mission of God are on display for all to see as we work. In the power of the Spirit, hard and honest work done with a correct understanding of why we do what we do won't lead to burnout but to carrying out our responsibilities as ambassadors of Christ for the glory of God.