the shape of leadership

Embracing Rest as a Work of Grace

A Q&A with Andrea Lathrop

Kristi Northup on October 7, 2019

In this ministry journey, each of us needs a web of people to walk with us and continually help pull us back to what matters most. One of those people in my life is Andrea Lathrop. She is simultaneously productive and peaceful, disciplined and present. Andrea has served as an executive pastor in more than one megachurch, and chose this year to step away from the intensity of an executive-level position while she works on her D.Min. We recently reflected on some of the conversations we’ve been having around the soul care of the minister, which is more than a hot topic to me right now; it’s a wake-up call.

NORTHUP: I see a generation of clergy who struggles with a workaholic approach to ministry, and we can’t figure out how to get off the hamster wheel. It’s leading some of our peers to walk away from their calling, their faith, and some to even commit suicide. Where do we start?
We start with our view of God. I came from the paradigm of puritan work ethic. I grew up under a pastor who strongly associated whether I was a good or bad person with my efforts to bring people to Jesus. This leaned into my own wiring, my personality, my brokenness and strengths, and impacted the way I saw God.

My low view of God led me to believe that He was only pleased with me based on what I did for Him. If He’s interested in me for only what He can get out of me, I need to be hustling all the time. He said in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” I saw this as a mandate, another thing I need to be doing. I jumped over the idea of who God is, and went straight to what I’m supposed to do.

My early paradigm was I need to be a good shepherd for these students, these women, this church. The revelation has been to realize that I’m a sheep too. It’s been in the second half of my life that I have come to understand that I’m a sheep, I’m a person.

It’s not just my obligation to love the world on behalf of God, but to realize that He loves me, and that has changed the order of my heart and motivation. God is not a user. His ultimate plan is not to use us until we aren’t useful to Him anymore. We have to start with a view of God that receives Him as a Father and a Good Shepherd.

I am a big believer in counseling, and I even understand the importance of medication. But I look around and see a Church that has accepted psychology as the answer, the actual truth. Is God enough to fix our anxiety? Our depression? Our broken history?
He is, but we have to go to Him. I had corporate prayer down, and fervently serving others. But sitting in silence with God was a game changer. There are many spiritual disciplines, but silence is not one we excel at as Pentecostals.

“Rest is a gift, a free gift from God.”
— Andrea Lathrop

And yet so many of the prophets demonstrated powerful moments in the silence with God. Isaiah spoke of letting his words be few. Elijah heard the voice of God in a gentle whisper. Jesus himself often got away to a quiet place. There is a truly restorative power that is found in the silence with God.

It’s difficult to establish that rhythm without true sabbath. Because of my addiction to productivity, I would find myself doing things around the house or running errands. I had poor boundaries early on. How can I read a magazine when someone needs me? My own need to be needed began to drain the life out of me. I didn’t have permission to say “no,” let alone really rest.

In The Rest of God, Marcus Buchanan talks about what trust has to do with resting. You can’t rest without trust. He calls the enemy of our souls the taskmaster. The taskmaster wants us to believe that rest is a reward. If we see rest as a reward for finishing our work, something we’ve earned, the taskmaster knows we’ll never be done. We’ll never do it consistently. If he can tie it to us earning or deserving or finishing, he knows we’ll stay on the treadmill.

Rest is a gift, a free gift from God. It’s not something we earn as a reward.

It was huge for me. I could take a day off — not because I earned it, but because it was a gift. Those daily moments we give to God are a deep reminder of the creation order. I’m not Him. He’s not me. I’m so glad He did it this way and built into our rhythms the reminder that the weight of the world is not on our shoulders.

What about those who have the opposite of workaholic tendencies?
That’s what’s amazing about sabbath and true rest. It works powerfully for everyone.

The intimacy with God that will make a workaholic more centered also has the ability to re-engage the person who is disengaged, to bring those who are not on mission enough back into Spirit-led purpose. He speaks to our frantic pace, and also our apathy. Those are the things He makes healthy.

I think as ministry leaders, we have a responsibility to be more thoughtful about these things. We live in a world so full of an imbalance of leisure, excess money, wasted time, and work obsession. Because of the example of Christ, church leaders are uniquely positioned to speak to this.

We should be the ones who aren’t burned out or consumed with work, but who are still excellent workers. Where else can people figure out that balance? We have to do our own internal work and wrestling, become more convinced of the ways of Jesus and embody it in our own lives.

NORTHUP: An accurate view of God as a Father who gives rest as a gift, not a reward, is key to finding a rhythm of healthy work and sabbath. There is a truly restorative power that is found in the silence with God.
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