The Wise Neighbor

Mr. Belton was an elderly gentleman who lived next door to my wife and I when we lived in the first house we purchased. It was a small fixer-upper. I was determined to breathe new life into this house and make it a fine little abode for us. Every day, for as many hours as my life schedule allowed, I was swinging hammers, chopping wood, stripping paint, and sanding trim. I did a lot of the work in the backyard, in full view of Mr. Belton. He quietly watched as I struggled through the seemingly never-ending project of fixing this old house. We would occasionally chat across the fence, but not for long because I wanted to get back to my task at hand. His presence was one of gentle encouragement to me. His life was slower and more simple. He was retired and had no house to fix up. He also had many years of life experience and thus, a deep wisdom about the world from which I was about to learn…

Once, after a long day of working with lumber in the backyard, I was visibly sweaty and exhausted. Mr. Belton looked straight at me from across the fence and said ten words to me that I will never forget:

“Jesse, the Lord didn’t make the world in one day.”

That’s all I needed to hear in that moment. I stopped what I was doing, went inside, and spent time with my wife.

I eventually finished the fix-up job, but likely at a slower pace after that advice from Mr. Belton. He helped me see the big picture in perspective. Life was a lot more than fixing up that house. I did not need to devote all seven days of the week to hard labor (in addition to my “day job” at the time). I was on the path to burnout, and Mr. Belton saved me.

There is a lie going around in ministry. The lie comes from Satan himself and the lie is this: “The more you work in your ministry, the bigger and better its going to get.” But I challenge you to find that anywhere in Scripture. What we do see in Scripture is that on the seventh day, the Lord himself rested:

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Genesis 2:2-3, NIV

Ministers, students, volunteers, you need Sabbath rest (it’s one of the Ten Commandments!; Exodus 20:8-11). There is too much burn-out going around in ministry right now because too many people who feel called to ministry are sacrificing their own well-being and the well-being of those around them (family, friends, congregation, etc) on the altar of “ministry” (for example, working 80 hours a week at the church; see The Endurance Factor by Greg Surratt and Chip Judd, published by Avail in 2023, for more on that).

Take a day off each week – religiously. It probably won’t be Sunday if you’re in full-time pastoral ministry. So find another day of the week to be your Sabbath. On that day, refrain from any work-related tasks (including work-related emails, texts, phone calls, prep-work, etc.). Spend time with your family, with nature, with a hobby, in solitude, and overall, with the Lord. You’ll be surprised at how refreshing and freeing the discipline of Sabbath can be.

Quick quiz. There are only three questions:

1. Guess which fast food chain in America makes the most money per location? Bingo: it’s Chik-fil-a (source:

2. Guess how many days a week Chik-fil-a is open? Right again, only 6 (they’re closed Sundays).

3. Do you think they’re foolishly leaving money on the table by closing on Sundays? Or is the Sabbath more valuable than one more day of earnings? For a company that is already number one. Just think about that.

-Dr. Jesse Joyner, Dean of Children and Family Ministries, Ascent College

My first peer-reviewed article!

For lowly academics like myself, getting something published in a peer-reviewed journal is an exciting achievement. For a recent conference, I summarized the findings of my dissertation research as a paper presentation. The editor of the journal affiliated with the conference asked me to submit the paper for consideration in the journal, which I did. Then I found out that it passed the peer review process! The hard copy will come out in the next few months, but for now, the article is available online at Sage Journals. The article is called “Holy Fools”: The Journey of Calling for Christian Variety Performers. Here is the link to the article:

Thanks for reading!

Why I Quit Facebook (and X/Twitter and Instagram)

I was an early adopter of Facebook, joining sometime around 2007. In its early days, I appreciated the value it brought to my life – connectivity, networking, posting pictures for friends and family, engaging in shared interest groups, finding local deals on their marketplace, etc.

But over the past several years, I discovered that though Facebook still provided a certain level of value to my everyday life, the associated costs and downsides had outweighed the value. So I quit Facebook, X, and Instagram. And when I say, ‘quit,’ I mean that I permanently deleted my accounts (after successfully downloading the files of ALL my data from those accounts).

What do I mean by costs and downsides? Before I list those, let me say a disclaimer: this is my own story and experience. Yours might be totally different. You might find more value than the costs, and that’s great. This is simply how I perceive the role of Facebook (and X and Instagram) in my life before and after quitting them. And I can say that three months in, I have no regrets. In fact, I believe my life has been more enjoyable, simple, and joyful since I quit those big three. If you’re wondering, I never had SnapChat or TikTok in the first place.

Costs and Downsides (in no particular order)

  1. Sponsored Posts – These got out of hand for me. I know the social media companies need to make money somehow to provide users with free social media. I really do get that. But we as users get to decide when the commercials are too much and can just walk if it’s not worth it to us (that’s what I chose to do).
  2. The Algorithms – This is the secret sauce that the social media companies do not want us to know. They want engagement. Why? So they can sell ads to their customers at higher prices. How do they increase engagement? They generate content feeds that they believe will keep our eyes on the screens for as long as possible. That might mean prioritizing things on our feed that really don’t interest us. Yes, I know we can toggle about with what we like and don’t like and can block people and so on. But in the end, the social media company is still dictating what I see and what I don’t see on their feeds. What if I want to simply see the most recent post that any of my friends posted? That might happen. But I can’t count on it.
  3. We Are the Product – Speaking of ads and customers, I once heard someone on a radio interview (I’m sorry I cannot recall who) say that we are not social media customers (unless you’re a business account), but rather “We are the product.” You see, everything we post, like, subscribe to, etc, the social media company harvests that data in order to create a very specific profile of us for the sake of selling targeted ads to their business customers. We are exchanging our personal information and data for the opportunity to connect with others on social media. Sorry, it’s not worth it to me anymore. I’ll just send pictures of my children and vacation highlights directly to those closest to me via text (and I’ll know that they will see them).
  4. Lost Time – When I’m 80 years old, I’m not going to look back on my life and say, “I wish I would have spent more time on social media.”
  5. Losing Our Minds – More often than not, I see posts or discussion threads that quickly descend into arguments and shouting matches where people are simply shouting past one another. When we are not in the flesh as humans (like online conversations), I believe we tend to say and do things that we would otherwise not say/do in the flesh. That means people say really crazy things online without careful thought. And oftentimes those voices are amplified in ways that are not commensurate to thoughtfulness of the conversation. You may say that is a subjective statement, and it is. Who gets to decide what gets amplified or not in these environments? The social media platform, not us.
  6. Tending to Conversations that Take Me Away From Real Life – I was tired of keeping up with conversations in the social media environment. It’s like tending a garden. It’s work to say things, listen to others, respond to others, and have fruitful conversations in life. I’d rather invest more time and energy into real-life dialogues and conversations.
  7. Fakebook – We all know the flashy photos on social media depict one slice of life of all of us. We all like to post our best and happiest. But that is a facade. I don’t want to live in a world of facades. At it’s core, I believe social media is more facade than truth. It is a lot of context-less images and sound bites. The platforms are not giving us free social connectivity online out of the goodness of their own hearts. They are in this for the money. And I have chosen to take my data elsewhere.

Have you quit/deleted social media? If so, why? Are you a big fan of social media? Do you believe it provides more value than cost to your own life?