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Summer 5: Getting over the 'guilt thing' when taking time out

Summer 5: Getting over the 'guilt thing' when taking time out

Summer 5: Getting over the 'guilt thing' when taking time out

21 January 2020

Menai Salvation Army leader Mark Soper regularly takes time out to be open to hearing God's voice.

By Mark Soper

Two years ago, I got to a point in my ministry when I wondered if I could continue.

I’d been leading Menai Salvation Army Corps for about six years. I had a young family and I’m the only full-time ministry worker there, and even though we have a great team with a number of part-time staff, I was feeling overwhelmed and began to think, ‘‘I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”

My mum has always said to me, “Don’t jump off a train in a tunnel.” In other words, you need to be thinking and seeing things clearly in order to make good decisions. I knew I needed to seek God.

At around the same time, my mentor and I were catching up and I was speaking to him about this feeling of being overwhelmed with life and ministry. He challenged me on how much concentrated time I was spending with God and said to me that the best time to get away, to pray and to reflect is during some of the busiest times in life.

So, two years ago, I started taking half a day a week to sit with God. It took me a little while to get over the whole ‘guilt thing’ – the feeling that I ‘should be working’. A lot of the men and women in our church, they obviously work, and I would think, “They’re doing 50-plus hours a week and I should be working that much, if not more.”

I thank God for one of the elders in my church who, when he heard about what I was doing, said to me, “I’m so encouraged that the leader of our church is taking time to be with God and listening to his voice ... that’s one of the most important things.” And that encouragement helped to change my mindset. I began to see it as not an indulgence but part of my work, because if I don’t do this I’m actually not going to lead in a way that God wants me to lead and I’m not going to talk on what he wants me to talk about, or encourage and build up the people he wants me to come alongside.

So, I committed myself to scheduling the half-day in my diary, packing my backpack with my journal and Bible and going on a bushwalk. And I would say right at the start: “Ok God, what do you want to reveal to me?”

For one year I was fairly consistent; I probably only missed a couple of weeks here and there. I would spend time with God walking and praying and I’d stop and read my Bible or write in my journal. On my way back I would ask God to reveal to me what he wanted me to preach on that week, or names of people he wanted me to come alongside. By the time I got to my car I would need to sit down and get out my notebook and write a whole heap of stuff down because I was able to hear his voice so clearly!

If anything, taking a half day a week out from my ministry duties to deliberately seek God has made me more effective. I feel lighter, my mind feels clearer, I don’t feel overwhelmed anymore and my capacity actually increased. I can’t explain it, but it did.

This year has been different. I find I am better at making more space and hearing from God. Taking more ‘snippets’ rather than ‘chunks’ of time away. But I still, every two months, will schedule a half day to seek God’s heart, and I don’t feel guilty about it; that’s just part of my job. If anything, it’s made me a better leader, a better father and a better husband.

Mark Soper is Corps Leader at Menai Salvation Army in southern Sydney.


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