Who would make the Starting 5 if your life was a basketball team?
Here’s a piece of information you might disagree with:
Saying YES to everything is saying NO to everything!
Saying Yes to everyone is saying No to everyone.
You can juggle things for awhile depending on how much stress you can live with, but to actually think you can build relationships or financial stability or reach marital success by juggling your priorities and activities constantly is a naivety you and I can no longer afford. If you are young you’ll tend to think that you are talented enough or have enough energy to not prioritize your relationships and activities, but give it enough time and you’ll fall apart like everyone who attempts to do something unwise and, if I may… physically impossible.
We can learn things the hard way and often insist on that, or we can piggyback on other people’s success and learn from their mistakes. One way is smart and the other kinda stupid, (again if I may…). I have watched countless families implode because they never questioned their own priorities as individuals. It was the conversation no one had. “Don’t tell me what to do!” – translation: “I’m always right! (and ergo everyone else is wrong)”
Now I’m not going to tell you what to do because I’m not responsible for you. Your problems are your problems and I will never answer for them. My boundaries are quite well defined and so when people occasionally try to scapegoat me for their own family disasters that they didn’t want help with before the big bang, and certainly don’t want help with after, I smile and don’t take it personally. At least I try to. Some people think they’re asking for help but what they really want is for you to tell them they’re doing a great job and everyone else is treating them badly and they shouldn’t change anything at all and nobody understands them and let’s all gather ’round and sit in the garden and eat worms and feel sorry for each other! (It has become somewhat apparent just now that I do take it a little personally. I just love when rumours come back to me that so-and-so is blaming me for the state of their children when they never asked the right questions and never did anything we recommended anyways. When we’re in pain it’s easier to lash out and make sure someone else shares our misery than it is to walk through the pain to an actual solution.)
So do what you want to do, but I’ve had great success in my life because of some priorities my mom and dad handed down to me. I didn’t have to figure these out myself, I just applied the principles and they worked. So to be clear these ideas didn’t start with me but I stole them and they worked! The ‘ol CASE method: Copy And Steal Everything!
The Starting Five of my life:
My personal relationship with Jesus Christ comes first. Before my marriage, before my family, before my job as a pastor, before my kids. This will sound really weird if you’re not a God person but I’ll preface this choice for God to be the #1 Starter by saying He’s Michael Jordan if Michael Jordan never missed a shot or pass or dribble or anything and never had to eat or sleep and never had a bad game. When my own personal relationship with God comes first everything else is better. The premise is that who knows me better than the God who made me and loves me? He’s simply the best and has never ever let me down. This is my personal devotion time when I read the Bible and pray, listen to music and sometimes just listen. God never gets subbed off. That’s normally when I lose. I’ve also noticed that God doesn’t take all the shots either. He’s an amazing passer of the ball. These are the players He most often passes to (the next 4) and says “Shoot!”.
Immediate family, not extended. My wife and my kids. Now I have to have a career to feed them and house them and buy little girl dresses, but ultimately I’ll have several careers and ideally only want one family. (I’m not being weird, just recognizing it hasn’t worked out for a lot of people the ideal way but maybe the whole priority-thing lent itself to a failure along the way). In this circle my wife comes first. My girls know that I love her more than I love them (and believe me, I love my girls!!!). This is healthy. This makes a statement that our marriage is the most important thing and also the best gift I can give my girls. When my phone rings and it’s Erin I apologize to whomever I’m with (outside of an emergency) and say “I ALWAYS take this call”. Now, I have the freedom in my career to do this and Erin does not call me 40 times a day, but I’m making a statement to the person I’m with and to myself that she is more important than they are. Believe me it works and the only people who don’t like it are people who wish their spouse would do the same thing with them.
3. Church Community.
NOT church activities, but church community. Personal church community. Basically my small group and weekend worship experiences (where I come faithfully to give my life back to God and pay attention to Him as He speaks throughout the service to me personally). I organize the Subs around my church community. My small group is where Erin and I do life together. It’s where marriage problems surface and we have real conversations. Small groups are our first line of defence for problems in our home and they are a massive value at Venue Church. As we grow in size, it would be ridiculous to think that I can personally counsel hundreds of people (or would even want to:), so our small groups have to work very well. And they do. I believe in them.
4. Lifelong Friends.
This is not a big circle but these are the people who stop their lives when I’m in trouble, call me and say “We’re coming over whether you want us to or not!”. They hold our hands and pray with us and we weather the storm together. We celebrate the good times together. We do life together. Some of these people are also in our small group because that’s also where we do life and it works! Pick your lifelong friends carefully and you will do well.
My career right now is pastoring a church. Notice that it is the last starter. Many pastors I know confuse this with number 3 and even number 1. IT IS NOT! I cannot stress this enough! Having said that I am obsessed with building Venue Church and reaching as many people as possible with the gospel of Jesus, but only up to a point that does not cost me what I will be unable, or even UNASKED to pay. I’m not saying I’ll never lose anything in the top 4 but way too many pastors have lost what eventually cost them effectiveness in their careers because of poor priorities. It is not spiritual to always leave your family to help everyone else’s family. It happens some of the time but only up to a point. Then I say “Sorry but I can’t….”.
Being a pastor’s kid has helped immensely in this. My dad was and is a great dad. His first priority was his wife and sons. His first job as a Christ follower was to reach his family and he did. If Christianity cannot spread from generation to generation and pick up steam maybe we should start asking some better questions. My dad’s best investment was in his family. It is now the greatest source of joy in his life and my “career” as a pastor will, ironically, surpass his because of the personal time and character he passed on to me. Like it was meant to be…
Sub List: Recreation, TV, Sports, TV:), children’s activities, opportunities, extended family (even my mom and dad), friends, acquaintances, eating, sleeping, hobbies, music, video games, and on and on and on. Basically anything else that could use my time.
There are times when my Career gets subbed off for recreation and relaxing with my family. God blesses these times and actually enhances the effectiveness of my career.
I do have hobbies like normal people and do things I like doing, even though old school religious people would rather I place my career above everything else and get mad that I occasionally relax.
An older preacher said one time: “The only type of Idolatry church people will tolerate in a pastor is when they (the church people) are the idols”. That is quite true:)
That’s it! This is what works for me and I hope it helped you figure your priorities out a little today:)
PS. Every Sub wants to be a Starter but I just smile and say “Sorry, but I always…..”