As a mega-church pastor, Brady Boyd is quite familiar with being insanely busy for God. He also knows firsthand that a busy life, even one focused on “kingdom work,” eventually bottoms out: your relationships rust, your soul shrivels, and your body rebels in exhaustion. In his new book, Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul (September 2014), Brady Boyd invites Christians to slow down and discover the rest and peace of Jesus. His journey from chaos to contentment began two decades ago when he was “doing ministry” seven days a week.
Q: This book reflects your own journey from “chaotic, busy living” to a more restful and rhythmic life. How bad was your own busyness addiction?
A: My wife, Pam, and I were married at twenty-two, and within five years, I was running my life at unprecedented speeds, even for me. We lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, at the time, where I taught junior- and senior-level English literature at a prep school of several hundred kids called Evangel Christian Academy. That role alone would have meant a full plate for me, but I treated it as a mere side dish, adding to it half a dozen other appetizing things. I was the boys’ Varsity basketball coach. I was the girls’ Varsity basketball coach. I was the boys’ JV basketball coach and also the junior high boys’ basketball coach. I was the high school track and field coach, one of the campus pastors for the school, and the volunteer youth pastor at the church associated with the school.
I was gone from six or seven in the morning until ten or eleven at night, teaching, conducting parent-teacher conferences, grading papers, tutoring students, leading practices, driving buses, coaching games, washing uniforms in the locker room’s laundry facility, and more. During that season of life, the greatest compliment you could have paid me was, “Wow. You’re always so busy.” To me, busyness equaled movement, and movement was necessary for me to get ahead.
I had exactly one day off a week, which was Saturday. But even then, I refused to rest. Instead, I added a huge Saturday ministry commitment for my wife and I. Then, just as I was at my “busiest for God,” I took on one more commitment, and it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My wife was done, D-O-N-E, with the chaotic life I’d created for us. Her bags were packed and I had a decision to make.
I wanted to stay married more than I wanted to keep coaching, or teaching or volunteering every day of the week. So I begged Pam to give me 24 hours to prove I could change, then I proceeded to resign every position I held. Every single one.
I continued to work hard in the years that followed, but with a loving wife and then, eventually, two small children at home, I gladly kept my schedule in check. They were my magnetic north, my motivation to stay healthy and whole. And I did, largely. I went to work in radio making stagnant stations profitable.
Q: How has Jesus become a role model for peaceful living?
A: A string of scenes from Luke 5 is a good place to start. Here he is, right in the thick of ministry—calling disciples to follow him; enfolding sinners in community; healing people who are paralyzed and marginalized, broken and bruised and sad. He is teaching and preaching and answering questions about the kingdom until his voice is hoarse. He’s working hard and pushing hard and running fast and strong. But in the midst of all this busyness, Jesus decides to take a break. In fact, he takes many well-deserved breaks. “As often as possible,” Luke 5:16 says, “Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.”
He withdraws in order to work through tragic news, such as when he learns that his friend John the Baptist has died. He withdraws to gain insight on important decisions, such as which men to call to follow him. He withdraws so that he simply can pray. He withdraws to enjoy time with his closest companions. He withdraws as a means of teaching his disciples the unparalleled value of rest. He doesn’t wait until his mission is accomplished. He doesn’t wait until someone sanctions a few days off for him. He doesn’t even wait for an official “Sabbath” to dawn. When he senses it’s time to withdraw, he just goes.
“Jesus obeyed a deeper rhythm,” writes Muller. Absolutely, he does just that: engage, engage, engage, withdraw … engage, engage, engage, withdraw.
Rhythmic—that’s how Jesus lived.
And Jesus’ times of withdrawal, of divine rest, weren’t patronizing scraps tossed God’s way; they were intentional and intimate moments of connection, during which nothing else caught Jesus’ eye. Jesus was in love with his Father. And that one great love drove everything he did—and did not—do.
For the entirety of Jesus’ public ministry here on earth, he was inundated with people every day. And yet not once do I see him exasperated with the humanness of humankind. Yeah, he puts the Pharisees in their place a few times and tells the moneychangers at the temple to get a life. But I mean regular, everyday people—the people who so often ride my last good nerve. He never seems to be “fed up” with them. He never loses his cool. There is something instructive to me about this, something that looks a lot like being able to engage with people because adequate time has been taken first to engage wholeheartedly with God.
Q: You lead a mega-church, so how do you keep your leadership and staff from busyness addiction?
A: New Life staffers know full well that I expect them to do their jobs in under fifty hours a week, and that they are not to be away from their homes more than two or three nights a week for the purposes of doing ministry. If they choose to work more hours than what I mandate, then I pull them in for a little chat. One of two things clearly is wrong: they have too much to do and we need to revisit their task load, or else they are not working smart. Either way, something has to change. I know it. They know it. Their spouse knows it. In fact, a call from a spouse is typically how I discover that a particular staff member is working too many hours. New Life staff spouses know that I expect them to call my cell if their husband or wife is violating my fifty-hour rule. I’ve received a few of those phone calls over the years, and you’d better believe I take them to heart. I pull in the staff member, we have a conversation, and together we chart a new course.
During those conversations, I remind them that if they do wish to burn out, there are plenty of churches around this country that will welcome them with open arms. But New Life is not one of them. I help them remember that they are part of a church community that is staunchly anti-burnout.
Q: What one idea would you like our readers to ponder?
A: If you and I had margin, if we weren’t chronically stressed out, if we weren’t forever dashing from here to there to there … I wonder what we’d do differently, what we’d attempt, who we’d become.
Three pieces of advice, if you’re interested in answering that question for yourself. First, unplug. Decide now that the rhythmic life is worth living, that peaceful describes the person you want to become. Next, be filled. Know what brings you alive and pursue it. Be intentional during unplugged times. And third, give your best away. Share your sense of peace with a world in chaos, letting the abundance of your life overflow.
This is how we quit dying inside. It’s how we come alive.
If you’re still not sure that a less busy life is the cure for what ails you, consider this insight from a pastor who has seen it all: “Every problem I see, in every person I know,” explains Brady Boyd, “is ultimately a problem of moving too fast for too long in too many aspects of life. Speed is the single greatest threat to a healthy life. Margin, space and time are things I desperately want these days. I know I’m not alone.”
Brady Boyd is the Senior Pastor of New Life Church (10,000 members) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He’s married to his college sweetheart, Pam, and is dad to two teenagers: Abram and Callie. Brady has penned four books, and his latest is Addicted to Busy: Recovery for the Rushed Soul. Brady cheers for the Cowboys while living in Broncos Country, and loses his voice most Autumn Saturdays after yelling for the LSU Tigers. He likes to hunt, fish, play golf and spend lots of time with his family.
Publication date: October 9, 2014