I had just cancelled my life. At least, that’s how it felt.
The Prime Minster had called for a Lockdown. I called my leadership team and we cancelled everything.
Youth ministry: cancelled.
Kid’s ministry: cancelled.
Staff meetings: cancelled.
Everything I loved: cancelled.
And then the silence came. The vacuum of an empty diary. The lack of office banter. The removal of long-anticipated events from a crowded schedule.
I sat in the silence. The void was uncomfortable.
I soon discovered that I could medicate my discomfort with something called Zoom. If I applied Zoom three or four times a day I would feel much better. And so that’s what I did. Zoom. Zoom. And more Zoom.
But something was missing.
I call it ‘Leadership Buzz’.
Many years ago I learned that an inadequate, but common, metric for assessing ministry success is the use of the ABC’s: attendance, buildings, cash. If the church is growing numerically, had a good-looking building and enough cash in reserves to cover three months’ expenditure I was doing just fine. And then I discovered that my American’s friends added a fourth: butts, buildings, bucks and buzz!
That feeling you get when the room is crammed full of people and they sing their hearts out to God with passionate voices. Buzz.
That feeling you get when you finally lock the doors of the church after preaching your heart out to hungry disciples knowing that you gave your very best. Buzz.
That feeling you get when you sit in the same room as the team you love and you strategize and plan for kingdom advancement, and at the end of the meeting you place your hands on each other’s shoulders and you pray a blessing over each other’s lives and homes. Buzz.
That feeling you get when you hold the hand of a grieving widow, comforting her in her loss and pain, knowing that you are called to be her Pastor; to be this community’s Shepherd. Buzz.
There are some things Zoom cannot replace.
Preaching into a camera lens.
Conducting a funeral at a distance.
Singing to a screen.
Teamwork without the huddle.
I miss the leadership buzz.
I miss the adrenaline rush.
I miss not knowing how I’m ‘doing’.
I miss looking into people’s eyes.
I miss the leadership buzz.
But I’m learning something in the silence. In the stillness.
Pascal famously said that, ‘All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.’ He had a point.
In the silence our soul speaks to us and because we don’t like what we hear we drown out its voice with noise and busyness and digital distractions.
In the silence and stillness we discover our unhealthy attachments, our mixed-motives and our injurious idols.
In the silence our deepest desires and our darkest thoughts rise to the surface of our souls.
In the stillness we ask, ‘Who am I when I leave the crowds behind?’
In the silence we start to wonder if we’ve been trying to gain the whole world while forfeiting our souls.
In the stillness we start to wonder if we’ve been drowning-out our soul’s persistent voice with our addiction to activity and progress and purpose, so that we don’t have to address its most probing questions.
In the silence we wonder if we’ve been pursuing the wrong thing; we wonder if we’ve confused the pursuit of God with the pursuit of the leadership buzz.
In the stillness I’ve learned to listen to my soul.
In the silence I remember that if I never get to preach again or lead again I am eternally loved. I remember that the level of my performance and my productivity has no bearing on my value. I remember that if no-one calls me ‘pastor’ again, He calls me ‘son’.
In the stillness I remind myself of life’s most important truth: if I never experience the leadership buzz again, I will always be a beloved child of my Father in heaven.
That is more than enough for me.