Deadlines and Angst

When I have a deadline for a project it creates in me a heightened sense of anxiety. The days are thick with unmet goals. The burden is heavy. Frustration arrives all too often and with increasing ease. And the project's completion weighs on me steadily, driving me to push all the harder to meet my goals, to accomplish what I've set out to do, and to see the progress.

Deadlines affect other areas of my life and ministry as well. They affect my perspective. Here's what I mean. When you're young (early - mid 20's) and you arrive at a ministry with the intention of giving a certain amount of time you have just created a deadline for yourself. No matter what occurs over the course of that time, the end date is still in your mind. The effects are significant. There are goals that you've set, plans you want to see to fruition, things you dream about accomplishing there. In effect, you begin to gauge success at that "stop" in ministry by how well you've done with your plans in that allotted time. As the "deadline" stays at the forefront of your mind, you are constantly evaluating progress against the deadline. The result is sometimes a mess for said random young minister (no one in particular here or anything). He places too much personal emphasis on his plan, often times fails to allow his teammates the time to adopt his plans and ideas, tends to get frustrated easily, and experiences a great deal of tension and angst. But, when the deadline is removed from the equation, joy follows right behind. The burden isn't as great. There's finally time. Time to enjoy the process. Time to wait for your teammates to adopt the vision. Time to develop deep relationships. Time to dream together about all that God wants to do. Time. The end is no longer looming. The deadline is no longer on the radar. And the angst is no longer as pressing.

Early this week I spent a large chunk of my day with our Executive Pastor, Scott, drawing up organizational charts for our ministry. Yes, I know that many of you are jealous of that stimulating meeting. When stepping back and taking a look at all that a church does - the services, the staffing, the conferences, the missionaries, the children's programs, etc. it can be a bit daunting. Even overwhelming at times. The plate is full. Seeing where we are and dreaming about where we feel God is leading us creates that same sense of angst. However, I was reminded today that I surrendered the "deadline." We have time. No need to rush. Leading well is more important than doing this quickly. It is a freeing thing to ponder a lifetime in ministry without the looming departure. It allows me to have patience. I am excited about what God wants to do in our ministry. But I am more excited about investing my life in a community of believers and pursuing God together. That, to me, is more pressing than any goal that we've set.


  1. Amen to the pursuit of God together as a church body!
    I'm glad you are no longer feeling rushed! I agree leading well is more important.

  2. Wow, well-said, as always, Pastor Matt! Thanks for reminding me to think about the people: I'm a details/goals/deadlines person, too. (The idea of organizational charts both excites and soothes me. LOL) As a mom of four, a schedule is helpful and important, but I need to remember to find the joy in the journey and the people I am trying so hard to serve. Thank you for investing your life here at Temple!

  3. Things take time. Too often we forget that God's timing can't be rushed (I plead "guilty"). There's a gestation period for just about everything (Eccl 3)--the problem is that most of the time we think it's shorter than it is. We used to joke about project schedules where I used to work, comparing our expectations with the gestation period of an elephant (2 years)--if we wanted a baby elephant in one year we would put two elephants to work on it. Sounds ridiculous, but in reality we often think that way. We must remember that things take time, and even when we're driving for results (as we should), we need to temper that urgency with the realization that there's no point in getting frustrated when "our" goals take longer than we plan.