I remember the sessions from my high school days, a moment intended to create a self-evaluation of the use of my time (good), which ended in guilt (not-good). I sat with pen and paper, attempting to make a rough pie chart, while our leader went through the questions.
“How many hours are there in a week?”
Twenty four each day, times seven days. One hundred sixty eight hours.
“How many of those hours do you spend sleeping?”
If I’m trying to get eight hours of sleep a night…fifty six hours.
“How many of those hours do you spend at school or work?”
About eight hours five days a week…forty hours, maybe more.
“How many of those hours do you spend doing extracurricular activities? . . . How many of those hours do you spend recreationally, doing something fun with friends?”
On and on it went, with the activities and responsibilities of my week slowly chipping away at the hours allotted to me each week.
And then, of course, came what was to be the climactic question: “How many hours a week do you spend dedicated for the Lord?”
Two hours at church on Sunday, two at church on Wednesday night, and maybe 30 minutes for devotions each morning…
My teenage self looked at the meager sum. Not even eight hours a week. It was minuscule compared to the total available hours I’d started with. What was I to do? Sleep less? Drop a lesson or a night out with friends? If Christ was supposed to be my top priority, and that priority was reflected in how I allocated my time (the clear point of the lesson), then what was I to do when He currently only occupied a sliver?
At the time, my heart, so keen on living a committed Christian life, was struck by guilt and despair. Now, I look back on this with a wry smile and look back on my younger self with compassion. Now, I realize this exercise, and the guilt it sparked in me, reflected a faulty understanding of life as a disciple of Jesus.
But I also find this memory to be sobering because I know there are still faithful Jesus-followers, sitting in church pews each week (or, at the moment, perhaps on their couch in front of a livestream) who are laden with guilt that they aren’t doing more “church things.” They feel guilty for not feeling the call to drop everything and move to a foreign country. They feel less-than for not being able to wake up at 4 a.m. to devote extra hours to prayer. They, to be frank, feel like a second-class Christian for not devoting more time to explicitly “spiritual” endeavors.
These brothers and sisters have no vision for how day-to-day life can be fully dedicated to the Lord. How spending time in conversation with a coworker might be just as God-honoring as time in a Bible study. How doing good work as a health care worker or teacher or parent might be just as valued in the Kingdom of God as attending that extra prayer meeting. They have no imagination to see how God wants to permeate, fill, and transform every part, place, and relationship within their everyday life.
This is where you, as a church leader, have a vital role to play. You can shepherd and disciple and encourage the people within your church to see all of their life as a part of their discipleship. You can help spark an imagination that sees the work of God in the ordinary and the presence of the Holy in the mundane. You can shape a vision that sees how our whole life can be dedicated to God.
We do this through the stories we tell and the things we celebrate. We encourage this by creating margin in people’s lives by paying attention to the schedule and demand of church activities. We equip people for whole-life discipleship by what (and how) we teach and preach.
We have an opportunity to release whole-life disciples of Jesus into the everyday places of our communities, to commission people who engaging in everyday Kingdom work outside of the church walls. And we have a chance to breathe life and encouragement in the weary hearts of those who need to know that a sliver on a pie chart is not an accurate test of their faithfulness.
Article reposted and adapted with permission from dianagruver.com. Diana Gruver (MA, Gordon-Conwell) writes about discipleship and spiritual formation in the every day. She is the author of Companions in the Darkness: Seven Saints who Struggled with Depression and Doubt. You can find her online at www.dianagruver.com or on Facebook or Twitter. Diana originally published this work with the Vere Institute (Oct 2014 – May 2021), which was founded to empower Christians to integrate their faith into everyday life. The Vere Institute’s legacy lives on through our Vere Library.