By Larry D. White

President, Arkansas Baptist State Convention

[Perspective] Busyness

By Larry D. White

President, Arkansas Baptist State Convention

Corrie Ten Boom was noted as saying, “If the devil cannot make you sin, he will make you busy.” It’s interesting that this quote came to my mind as I looked at my calendar and remembered this article is due in a few hours. I had good intentions of writing earlier, but I was just too BUSY.  

I like “busy.” Busy makes me feel important; needed; valued. I often joke that my life verse is John 12:37, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  If I am in a hurry, I can be even busier. Right?  

“Busyness” has a negative impact upon the Church. Eric Geiger and Thom Rainer wrote a great book for the church, a few years ago, entitled “Simple Church.” Many churches are declining and even dying, not because they are not busy. In fact, their busyness is a key factor in their decline. They said: “Busyness is great disguise for the lack of life. The complexity is a great cover up. Church can sometimes be a fancy coffin. We have become content, being busy.” 

Martha is a biblical character we often speak of concerning busyness. Martha is in every church. We love her. She is that person that the pastor knows he can call on in a tight spot. She is reliable. She is a “yes” no matter what the question is. Committees hinge on her every move. Ministries depend on her. But sometimes, she can be distracted by the important, but neglectful of the essential. This is the curse of busyness.  

It can become worse. We may even harbor secret resentment toward those who are not as “busy” as we are. Then we feel we must be unappreciated by others. When we do finally slow down, we feel guilty for relaxing or taking time off.  

Inevitably, burnout may be the result. Burnout is not a badge of honor. Too many have left the church never to turn back, guilty of the sin of busyness. We need to be reminded we are not indispensable. The work will carry on without us. 

In the church, busyness seems like a good thing. Multiple opportunities for service. Multiple ministries and programs to reach more people. But all this busyness is sometimes just busyness for busyness’ sake. We can find ourselves on a life and ministry treadmill, where we are very active and moving but going nowhere. 

We are like a restaurant that offers a multiple buffet from hamburgers to seafood to pasta. You want it, they have it. But in their attempt to offer it all, most of it is mediocre at best. Those who have the best offering usually offer just a few things.  

Busyness keeps us from time with family. Busyness stands in the way of meaningful personal conversations. Busyness gives us an excuse for not praying, reading the Bible, and witnessing. Busyness is the reason we fail to see the sunset, the good in others and the need to reach out to someone “just because” they crossed our mind. 

Let’s repent of the sin of busyness. Remember, it is okay to say “no.” Focus on what will matter years from now, not just this moment. I plan to do that as soon as I finish this article.  

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6 Responses

  1. Dr. Cary Heard, retired pastor of Park Hill Baptist Church, spoke in a similar vein one Wednesday evening. I has stayed with me all these years. One reason for not being “busy” doing God’s work is that if one doesn’t say “no,” another believer can’t say “yes.” He cited some questions to help figure out your “no” or “yes” response. These are according to my memory, not verbatim.
    1) Can I complete this task?
    2) Am I the right person for the task?
    3) Is there someone more suited or could do it better than I?
    Considering the answers to these questions has my faith service much more meaningful.
    Thank you, Dr. Heard for all the lessons I have learned from your wisdom.

  2. Well, said. It’s a “battle” I fight every day. It’s made more challenging as we age. The body won’t respond to the work the mind and heart wants to do. That makes us feel even more useless and at times hopeless.

  3. This article was right on target for me. Recently I was a patient at Baptist Hospital and then in a rehab.facility when it dawned on me, or should I say the Holy Spirit told me I was too busy. It is my nature to be busy. From my youth to the time I was admitted to the hospital, I was busy. In fact I felt more comfortable doing various activities. To be still made me miserable. I am learning and it is hard but I believe this God’s will for me.

    Thanks, Dr. White.

  4. Larry, a very good article. Being in a small church, as compared to your church in Conway, I feel the pain of busyness, As you know, about 20% of the members do about 80 % of the work in most churches. It is even worse in a small church. It is very easy to reach the burnout point much too quickly. Thanks for sharing this article with Arkansas Baptist News. God Bless !

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