Don’t starve yourself to feed others

Ministry is busy.  There’s preparation to do, visits to make, evangelism to prepare, dusty-bibleleaders to lead, potential leaders to mentor, strategy to strategise, new books to read, oh yeah and squeeze preaching in somewhere, and I nearly forgot prayer (Wow!  Remembered just in time, to pray for my ministry.  Saved myself some guilt there).  That’s the way many pastors operate.  But what’s missing?

Too many pastors starve themselves to feed others.  We can’t share with others what we don’t have ourselves.  Too often the temptation is to minister to others at the expense of ourselves.  So we study the Bible to prepare for others, rarely do we get alone with God and his word and ask what are you saying to me?  Who are you?  What should I learn and love about you today that I didn’t know or had forgotten in the press of yesterday?

Too often we pray for others and spend little time praying for ourselves, weighing our hearts, motives, treasures, loves, passions and priorities.  Too little time simply enjoying God and responding to him in praise – yes sometimes joyfully, nosily and exuberantly (that’s why I hate the term quiet time!!!! – wrestles to put soap box away without standing on it).

And where does that lead?  That leads to burn out, eventually.  But first and perhaps more insidiously it leads to a loveless ministry.  Ministry becomes what I do rather than the overflow of the privilege of serving the God I love and am getting to love more.  And I think that shows in the way we minister, in the subtle shift to manipulation instead of worship, guilt as motivation instead of grace, ministry as to do rather than grateful overflow.

Pastor a simple plea: don’t starve yourself to feed others.  Fight yourself and others for time with God when you are his child wanting to know him not his minister wanting to fulfil your calling.

Churches a simple question to ask your pastor: how can we help you thrive in your relationship with and enjoyment of God?  He’ll probably try to avoid the issue, maybe he hasn’t even thought about it.  So, here’s what you do.  Ask the question then ask him to pray about it and think about it and take him for coffee, or ask the elders to ask him and take him for a meal to discuss the answer.

Sabbatical’s; godly gift or ministry minefield?

I’m going to be honest up front, I’m conflicted about the churches practice of giving pastors Sabbaticals for a number of reasons.  I’m ready to be convinced, but as yet I’m not convinced that sabbaticals are biblical for pastors.  As far as I can see it’s the land that has a Sabbath year in all the Old Testament passages that are used to justify this practice.  It is not the priests or the prophets or the king or the people but the land.

And why do we apply it to full-time paid ministers of the gospel but not to others who minister so hard alongside other work?  Shouldn’t the Sunday School teacher, the elder, the deacon, the toddler group leader, enjoy a similar rest?

And practically how does a Sabbatical work in a small church with one pastor and no other full-time workers?  And what does it say to our church family if pastors, as many I know of do, go to church elsewhere during a sabbatical?  And why would we want to?

And finally what will the guys I know who work on the railways, or in a warehouse, make of a pastor who has 3 months off?  (I know it isn’t off, it can be used productively for study or writing, but that’s how they see it).  How weird is that, I think it will just be another barrier to the gospel, some weird middle class church practice, a million miles away from working class realities proving yet again church isn’t for them..

These are just a few of my issues with Sabbaticals; theological, ecclesiological, practical and evangelistic.  But I wonder if my biggest issue with it is that as pastors and churches we are buying into the worldly way of binge resting.  Work, work, work at a burn out pace and then collapse into a period of rest.  Is it a sign that we are not enabling pastors to rest well so that their work is sustainably paced to endure and thrive and produce fruit over the long-term?  Is it that as pastors we have an overactive Messiah complex so we work ourselves into the ground until we need a break?  Is it that our diaries are so full that there is no time to read, take time out for long term planning, visit other places etc…  In which case we need to look at our diaries.

I’d love anyones thoughts on Sabbaticals.