Young & Restless

Don’t worry! This is not a commentary on the soap opera, so please hold the stones😂. This title described me not too many years ago.

When my first opportunities for ministry came during my teen years, I was so excited. It didn’t matter if I preached in a nursing home, sang in a crowd of 20 people, or played the piano on the back side of nowhere. I was humbled that the God of Heaven would use the extremely insecure me.

As I grew older, I was introduced to the church growth movement. Contentment was nowhere in this picture. No number of salvations and baptisms was ever enough. No crowd was ever large enough. Every record had to be topped. Because I was trained by some who believed this as much as they believed the Gospel, I got sucked in.

When I went to my first full-time ministry, the pastor thought programs were the answer to everything. It didn’t matter if they were not quality as long as activities were planned so I could prove I was “earning my keep”. I was constantly belittled by a micromanager who wanted bigger under his terms. I had no liberty to change choir practice times or do anything progressive. So what did I do? I sent out resumes the entire time I was there and watched all the larger churches, dreaming of having the quality they possessed. I was restless and always wanting more because contentment was something that was preached not practiced.

When I finally began to achieve my dreams in music ministry, it was exciting. I was restless in a different way. I possessed the fire in my bones to preach, and God gave me my first pastorate in 2012. Family and church problems brought that to an end a year later. The still young, divorced me was still restless because I missed the “bigger and better”. Or was it really better?

You may be young and reading this post. You are probably thinking I’m a 38 year old guy who lost his fire. I am still passionate about serving Christ, but I’m not restlessly looking for the next best thing. I wait upon the Lord and do what I know to do in the process. Contentment is a posture of the heart. It is not settling.

I want to invite my older and wiser readers to weigh in and comment. How would you articulate the balance between contentment and settling?

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25 thoughts on “Young & Restless

  1. For me the difference between settling and contentment is settling is resigning, you have lost heart. Contentment is rest in Jesus, but you haven’t lost heart. We wait in eager anticipation. The fire still burns.
    “Many people live quiet lives of desperation” like Thoreau said. This is a lost heart, settling.
    Hope and heart. We must have. Jesus said “do not lose heart, I have overcome the world.” So we wait with contented assurance, not resigned restlessness.

  2. I have learned through many years of trial and error that when I become restless it is because I am putting myself first, and ministry last. When I am patient and wait on the Lord, then ministry opportunities come in abundance and so there is no time to be complacent. I have also learned there are times, when God is wanting me to rest because he is preparing me for something new. It is then that I really become tempted to be restless, but experience has taught me to be patient for the Lord, for He works on a different time table than I do. What is also difficult is the art of balancing Ministry with Family, until it became clear I was not utilizing my family in ministry. This to was a selfish act on my part. When we as a family share in ministry together then we grow closer together as a family and grow closer to God. But the key is to continually keep in prayer and listening to God’s still small voice.

  3. Wow. You summarized your entire life in few words. I appreciate your openness dear friend. Yes contentment with godliness is a great gain. We may not appear to be on fire but steadily burning in the innermost is very important. The external excitement may wane but inner passion should continue. God post. Thanks for sharing your heart. God has better plan for your life.

  4. Matthew, I am older, but not wiser. It seems there is a constant stretch, a battle if you will, between opposite ends in a Believer’s life. As you’ve said, contentment vs. settling, but also grace vs. religion, humility vs. low self esteem, learning vs. pride, giving vs. greed, convictions vs. dogmatism, speaking truth vs. gentle tongue, intellectual study vs. experiential worship…..it goes on and on. Balance in a Believer’s life is one of the most fundamental things of a life that is real, authentic and effective. Without the balance, (speaking for myself really), can become so weighted in one direction or the other that it becomes nothing more than salt that’s lost its savor…just my thoughts….

  5. The key, in my humble opinion, is to make the differentiation between contentment and complacency. After serving as a denominational executive for seven years and having recently returned to the pastorate, I am glad to be older and more experienced. Some things don’t bother me as much as they bothered intimidated the younger me. I am moving in a greater state of contentment with better big picture, long perspective thinking than the younger me did. I am content, but I am not complacent. And for me, this is the most powerful state to reside in with Christ.

  6. Thanks for sharing Matt, sounds like you have had some valuable lessons.

    I would say that learning and actually living out the balancing between the two is a life long journey. I reckon how much one is abiding in Christ and healthy community also plays a role as well.

    True satisfaction (contentment) can really only be found in the Truth and the Life and way of Christ and as we daily seek to understand what that means and live in each moment, seeking fist the kingdom of God (lots of Christianese I realise) then we see where we wont settle for anything less.

    We need others to speak into this balancing as well as keeping in step with the spirit cause when we are left to do it ourselves alone, lets be honest, we get in the way.

    Open our eyes Lord!

    Peace to you dude

  7. Yikes. I’m learning to embrace every season that God takes me through. Currently I’m at a place where I know that, if I have Jesus, I have enough. I’m more concerned about fostering that relationship and sharing that relationship with others than building a name for myself. I used to look for opportunities to preach and lead in worship. Most recently I had the privilege of playing keys for a worship movement that ends in song and starts with Hill in Phoenix (lol). However, I found that in this season I am more content with spending time with others and sharing the love of Jesus than playing the keys. I found myself electing to walk away from a huge-mega church that I absolutely love to share Jesus with the hurting. I now find myself crossing the border to Mexico and meeting at the beach with 5-20 teens. I never know how many will show up. I’m just super excited to lead them in worship and teach them about Jesus…. and most importantly…. Jesus always shows up.

  8. Amen! I enjoyed reading this as the Lord continually teaches me contentment. I also firmly believe that when Paul said he had learned to be content in all circumstances that it was a constant process and not something you arrive at. Your circumstances change and God teaches you that once again, you have to be content in Him and not in your circumstances. Just my two cents; thanks again for the post.

  9. I think that when you settle, you allow your body to do the works of Christ in you. And when your body is working to settle, your spirit follows. Until, both your body and spirit are rested in Jesus Christ, if that’s what you call contentment. Although, we cannot truly be content in this world. We are meant for a place higher than this. I like how you keep your post open to seek understanding.

  10. So very well said, better than I could say it. I am learning (notice the tense of the verb) that there is a tension between contentment and settling. It is a boundary line that is often blurred. I would suggest that the difference lies in answering this question: What am I learning in this season?

    If one is learning nothing, perhaps it is settling. If we are learning more–learning more about God, His nature, His love, His purposes, His plans–and spiritually at peace that it doesn’t depend on us but HIM and whom HE chooses….that’s contentment!

  11. I struggled through many years of pastoral ministry thinking I didn’t have enough. I wasn’t concerned so much with the size of the church I was pastoring. Rather, I was restless because I had a difficult time accepting the limitations that I had to deal with. I felt alone. Others had staff, I didn’t. Others had teams of people to help carry the vision and moves things along, I didn’t. Others had big budgets, I didn’t. I was frustrated. I had a handful of well-intentioned individuals who offered what they could. When I could finally get them around a table once a month to share my passion, my thoughts, my ideas and to get their input, they’d be half asleep and exhausted from their own busy lives and work day. I felt limited in my capacities and frustrated with myself. I couldn’t shake the idea that I constantly needed someone/something else and all would be better. This lead me to look for ‘better’ opportunities rather than be content and where I was. I was constantly going back and forth between discontentment or numbness (going on neutral and trying not to fell anything). Trusting God was difficult. I finally moved on to what I thought was the perfect scenario for me only to then be fired less than two years in. Being restless as opposed to settling I think depends on what my motivations are. In some ways refusing to settle for what is can be God-given when the motivation is grounded in the gospel. Likewise, if settling means I’m accepting what is before me and trusting God to do His thing, then I’d say I’m in a good place. For to many years my settling and unsettling were anchored not in trusting God but in my own abilities. I could not find contentment there.

    1. I can relate to some of this. I started out as a worship leader in larger churches with resources. When I took my first pastorate, I had a decent-sized congregation but expectations from me were high. My greatest challenge was my church planting endeavor. I took a huge leap and almost broke my neck. That was when I felt the loneliest. I have a hard-working core group, but I did not develop a launch team that would have taken the load off with key areas such as worship, discipleship, children and youth, etc. When I faced the reality that I could not take it beyond where it was, I found a new sense of freedom. I knew the challenge would be going from preaching weekly to sitting in a seat. So far, I’m staying active enough with ministry opportunities. I consider this thing of contentment a lifelong lesson.

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