5 Themes: Addressing Spiritual Thinness

(This is one of a five part serious on responding to thematic issues affecting member care provider’s and cross-cultural worker’s health and effectiveness. You can read the intro.)

This much is true in creation: Input must exceed output.

Consider a farmer’s field.

A river.

Or maybe a camel.

In order for a farmer’s field to continue to yield fruit, it must be receive fresh nutrients.

In img_6274order for a rive to flow it requires snow melt or rain.

A camel can go immense distances before drinking, but it must eventually be watered.

Without sufficient nutrients the
farmer’s harvest is minimal.

Without water, the river runs dry.

Without being watered, the camel will eventually die.

So too the human being.

Over the course of one’s life, input must exceed output.

Physically we need sleep, food, water, warmth.

Emotionally we are created to desire encouragement, community, and identity.

So too the soul.

Spiritually we are created to be tended to. We are created dependent. We spend all of our life repenting of self-determination and self-reliance. Paul was about 30 years into his life in Christ when he wrote in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 that God allowed him and his teammates to be pushed to their limits so that they could “learn to not rely upon ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

So too for you and me. Input must exceed output. We can’t go and go without rest and renewal. Yet the evangelical work ethic is such that we are cajoled to do more and more, faster and faster, bigger and better. Even if someone else is not pushing us, then the internal voice drives us.

Over the tenure of a week, a month, a year, a career, input must exceed output. 

“If you are failing to feed your soul, while at the same time you are handling sacred responsibilities, the disconnect will finally become too much.”                                             Morris Dirks in Forming the Leader’s Soul

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them (John 7:37-38).’” John clarifies that he is speaking of the Holy Spirit. Is your life overflowing with the Spirit of the resurrected Christ?

My personal experience is that everywhere I go, yes, everywhere I go, I am engaged by people who are sorely depleted. Their output far exceeds their input. This dynamic is not merely spiritual, its more rudimentary than that. They are not getting enough sleep nor physical exercise. They are hurried and restless. Their souls are thirsty. So are their emotional lives  and, consequently, their relationships. What’s more, I see this thematically amongst those who shepherd them and lead them. Lots of avoidable breakdowns.

Who will model a different way to live and serve?

Yes, I am called to lay my life down for others. But do I even have a life to lay down? Or are others merely experiencing a weary, frenetic version of me? When I am with others do they experience the overflow of Christ?

img_9877What can you do so that over the long haul input exceeds output?

What life habits of restlessness must be repented of?

What simple habits of abiding in Jesus can be cultivated, especially “at work?”

I offer three suggestions, even four:


  • Time being addressed by God’s Word. The vast majority of cross-cultural workers (and member care providers) I engage have minimal biblically literacy. This is not merely about Scripture memorization. It is about being in the word such that our lives become saturated with the Truth.  How much time do you spend each week  studying Scripture in depth? Do your presentations and counsel  quote a passage here and there, or is it Scripturally saturated? I am not talking about being a Scripture quote machine – that comes off overly spiritualistic. I mean that we have been so much with God in his word that our lives bleed it in word, deed, and presence. Don’t have time for this luxury you say? Then I implore you to reconsider your life commitments.


  • Time with God. As we are addressed by the word,  we seek to move from what might be largely a cerebral engagement with the Bible to a relational, heart-engagement with God. He is there. He is waiting for us (See Isaiah 30:18 for example). Are your prayers such that you are moving from head to heart with God?
  • Time in meaningful conversation with others. We all need “advisors” in our lives. Some of those can be peers, some coaches/mentors/spiritual directors, some a small group, some the generation following us. Who are you sharing life with? Who is asking you hard questions, not to help you manage your sin, but rather inviting you to open your heart to God and others?
  • Pausing at different times amidst your daily work, not to stair blankly at your cell phone screen, but to quiet and still yourself in God’s presence. Where has he shown himself to you? When has he provided? What is he up to in you and around you? Pause and thank him. Acknowledge his prior work around you. Ask him for grace to remain abidingly mindful of him as you resume your work.

These are but four suggestions. There are hoards more (such as hobbies, vacations, sabbath, retreats, etc. etc.)

How will input exceed output in your life? How will 2017 look noticeably different than last year?

This entry was posted in Living Wisely, Personal Vitality, Shepherding Well, Spiritual Vitality, The Shepherd's Health, Thinking Well and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to 5 Themes: Addressing Spiritual Thinness

  1. ashleydill says:

    This is a beautiful reminder!! Without Him we truly can do nothing. Our own strength is so insufficient. I’m not in ministry, but am a mom. This so true for everyone who care takes.


    • Scott S says:

      Ashley – you are absolutely correct. Mothering little souls day after day after day is a profoundly demanding and rewarding vocation. May you be renewed day by day in your walk with Him. SS


  2. Thanks for this, Scott. Just re-posted it to Spa for the Soul’s FB page. What you say is nothing new. I read articles and exhortations about it nearly everyday. We know it, so why is it so hard for most individuals and their organizations to heed, I wonder. Blessings! Jeri


    • Scott S says:

      Thank you Jeri. You are correct, it is nothing new. I often feel like I am rehashing what is now old stuff. Yet…..in my next entry I am seeking to address the “why” question a bit. Blessings to you SS


  3. Daren Tompkins says:

    Great stuff Scott. Thank you. Forwarding these to our whole team.


  4. Pingback: Casual Friday ‘Tis The Season | Paracletos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s