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First Half--Second Half
Reflections on Bob Buford's Half Time

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 59
 

"I am a pilgrim, not in control
A Steward, not an owner
A Soldier, not [one] with security."
                         From Buford, Robert. Half Time, p. 58

It's Half Time!
 
In his book, Half Time (Zondervan/Harper-Collins, 1994), Bob Buford, a wealthy media giant and founder of the Leadership Network, shared his personal struggles and the lessons he learned resulting from the discovery his son’s sudden and tragic death in the Rio Grande River. The grief caused him to go into an in-depth reflection on his life. This time of reflection is what he referred to as "Half Time."

His thoughts relative to "Half Time" are applicable for all Christians...including pastors. So often it seems that just as pastors are experiencing and enjoying the prime moments of their ministries, an unparalleled crisis occurs. Such dramatic events cause pastors to engage in deep spiritual reflection, questioning the very essence of their calling, being, and purpose under God. This is the nature of "half time."

Such personal crises are not to be "palmed-off "or disregarded lightly as "midlife crises." Instead, because these crises may repeat themselves without warning, these half time experiences are important opportunities to consider those spiritual and existential issues which permeate and shape our response of faith, the nature and character of our ministry, and our entire being.

Half Time Issues

In these times of deep, personal crises, half time issues may include,
  1. Asking, "What’s it all for?" Half time causes us to begin to really pay attention to life. It’s more than just thrills. It has a purpose. God’s purpose.
  2. How Can I Grow From The Pain?: After discovering that loss is survivable and that the pain of losing is part of life, a purpose of half time is to discover how patiently enduring the pain may help uncover some of the most valued aspects of yourself you would have otherwise not seen.
  3. My Will My Epitaph Will Be?: Crises help us to develop different foci for almost every critical area in our lives.. Instead of emphasizing, "Look what did I do today!" the half time experience causes us to reflect, "When my life is over, for what will people will remember me?"
  4. The True Value Of Life: Much of the half time experience, Buford noted, is centered in the question, "If my life were absolutely perfect, what would I be doing now?"
  5. Seeking And Affirming Our Unique Personal Value: Quoting Soren Kierkegaard, Buford suggested another goal of half time--to see what God desires of us. "The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do…to find the idea for which I can live and die."

Of course there are other issues which may also be considered during our half time crises.. Such issues, might also include…

  1. Re-examining, adjusting and affirming our relationship and connected-ness with God;
  2. Developing a "Blueprint" or pathway which will lay out a path for us in our grief;
  3. Re-Assessing which personal and ministry relationships really matter; and other major personal and professional issues.
Half Time: A Dramatic Shift!
Asking these four questions—and others—can result in remarkable attitudinal transformations in anyone—including Christian pastors. The table below summarizes some examples of the watershed transformations which can occur in half time crises often making the second half after half time much different than the first half.
 

First Half Vs. Second Half
A Comparison

Attitude

First Half

Second Half

One’s Main Duty I'll Do What I’m Good At I'll Do What I Love
Focus of energies Toward Another’s Dream, Focus Toward Personal Goal, Focus
Intellect’s Energy Drive To Knowledge To Wisdom
Energy Direction Rush To Success, the "top" Greater Meaning/Inner Fulfillment
Goal Keeping Score "Win" Finishing "Well"
Fulfillment In Success In Enjoyment Of What One Values Most
Key Role Hunters Gatherers
Desire of Energies World Adventure Inner Truth-Seeking
Self-Perception Indestructible Temporal With Limited Life Span
Winning By Domination By Wise Choices
Attitude Toward Gain What Am I Willing To
Risk For Gain?
What Will I Sacrifice or Lose If I Achieve All This Gain?
Driving Force. Externals, Rewards, Recognition The Call Of The "Inner Voice"
Life's Greatest Joy The Thrill in Getting There Arriving There And Savoring It
Sense Of Time Immortal And Forever Young Awareness That "The
Bell Tolls...For Thee"
Preferred Activities

Frenetic, Noisy

Silent Listening To The Still, Small Voice

Activity Levels

Rushed and Hurried

Patiently Taking Time

Levels of Urgency

Get It Done—Yesterday!

Take Time, Contemplate

Relationships

Concerned with Passion

Focus on Inner Peacefulness

Overall

Driven by Externals

Driven by Deliberate Action

 
 
More Questions To Consider At Half Time*
Certainly not everyone will be willing to face the pain that Half Time crises can bring. Indeed, the questions Buford presented in Half Time are those basic, fundamental questions which are sometimes most difficult to answer and painstaking to apply in our lives.
 
These questions, paraphrased and expanded from Half Time, include the following:
  1. Am I missing anything in my life right now that’s important to me?
  2. What am I passionate about? Is it helping me live a balanced life?
  3. Who am I? How do I feel about that?
  4. What do I value?
  5. What do I want to be doing in ten years? In twenty?
  6. What gifts has God given me that have been perfected over time?
  7. What would I be willing to die for?
  8. What is it about my joy [ministry] that makes me feel trapped?
  9. What realistic changes can I make in my employment [vis a vis ministry]?
  10. Would I be willing to take a less stressful (and less paying) job in order to be happier—to be closer to my true self? (Pastors might ask, "Would I be willing to take a less stressful church or ministry at less pay—to receive a greater sense of joy in the use of my ministry gifts?")
  11. What steps do I need to take tomorrow in order to have a second half that is better than my first half?
  12. With whom will I share this journey? Who will be my mentors, models, and inspirations?
  13. Have I been honest with my responses to the above?

* cf. Half Time, pp. 68-72.

The Most Important Thing
Perhaps the most important lesson one can learn during Half Time is to discover the answer to Larry Crabb's questions found in his book, Inside Out..

What is the one thing in your life which will fill the hollow place located centrally within us and satisfy the core desire of our soul?

Asked in another way,

"What is it that God has prepared in advance for YOU do for His sake and your inner and eternal joy?" (Ephesians 2:10).

If, as Jesus said, we can’t find out lives until we loose our lives for His sake, then it follows that it is only in giving up those attitudes of the first half that we can really discover a true, vital, living and reciprocal connected-ness with God in the second half. It is then--and only then-- that we are likely to discover the true joy of sharing in God’s special ministry for us in the second half.
What Is It That God Wants You To Do?
Unfortunately, many pastors never consider this question. Or, if they do, they are unable to follow through to find the answer.
 
Time after time, one by one, pastors are beginning to discover that when pastors consciously commit themselves to concentrating on their special God-given giftedness—without neglecting their other ministry responsibilities-- they find an unparalleled sense of joy, peace, fulfillment in their ministry and a greater sense of value as a chosen vessel of God.
 
If a pastor cannot focus his ministry with a primary focus of using his major God-given giftedness, he is likely destined for burnout, dissatisfaction, early retirement, unquenched anger and frustration, or just plain apathy. That's what makes the half time experience so critical. It's the great divide between choosing life...or a very slow death.
Focus Your Ministry Gifts
St. Paul had much to say about the use of pastoral gifts. Writing to Timothy he wrote not to "neglect the gift which was given by the laying on of hands." Writing to the Ephesians, he stressed how God’s special ministry gifts—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—were essential to the Church. As each member of the Body of Christ passionately pursued his or her God-given gifts, the church was strengthened in every way unto the Head, Jesus Christ..
 
Focus your ministry gifts in your ministry context. Discover how God really does build and prosper His church when pastors and laity discover, develop and exploit that special giftedness.

Let God, Let Go, and Get Ready for the most joyful part of your ministry—the Second Half!

Thomas F. Fischer

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:51 PM