By Mike Glenn
We’ve all been there. A friend calls with news of another pastor who has been caught in an ethical or moral situation and forced to resign. Or worse, we read the news in the morning paper. We sigh and wonder what happened, but honestly, every one of us knows what happened. The demands of ministry don’t let up. The pressure is relentless and constant. There is always one more phone call to make, one more hospital visit to make and the sermon always needs more work. Running on empty, a pastor makes the fatal decision that he’s so tired…just this once…fill in blank here (have an affair, take a little money from the church to make it to payday, pick a drug of choice—pornography, alcohol—to ease the pain a little)…and a ministry is lost.
Ministers don’t explode. You never hear of a pastor grabbing an Uzi and shooting up a congregation. Ministers implode. That is, the pressure on the outside becomes greater than the pressure on the inside and we’re crushed like an empty soda can. Ministry, however you express it, is giving yourself away. Unless we are intentional to refill our souls, we’ll soon get to the place where we have nothing to give.
So, what do we do? Perhaps the ministry of Jesus would offer some helpful lessons. What kind of patterns do we see in the life of Jesus? Several come to mind.
First, Jesus made a habit of prayer. Several times we’re told Jesus disappeared to pray all night. Jesus knew the Scriptures. How many times do we see Jesus quoting Scripture from memory? For the minister, a disciplined life or prayer and Bible study is absolutely non-negotiable. This is NOT studying for the sermon, but studying out of our pure love for God’s Word. When we become overcommitted, we think we can skip pray and study, and run off to do our ministry. But remember this: the one thing our people count us to bring to them is the evidence that we have been with Jesus — recently!
Second, Jesus kept Sabbath. Jesus reminded us God created the Sabbath for us. Sabbath speaks to our need for rest. There are obvious implications. First, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Most of us are sleep deprived. No one works well when they’re fatigued. Second, take a day off. No, Sunday is not a day off. Find one day where you can focus on yourself and your primary relationships. And one more thing, take your vacations. Our ministry deserves our best energy. That means we have to be intentional about recharging our souls.
Third, Jesus had friends. In reading the gospels, we often overlook how close Jesus seems to have been with John. He often pulled John, Peter and James aside for deeper conversations. Jesus seems to have enjoyed staying with his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Too many times, we allow our ministries to isolate from the close friendships that make life bearable. I know finding good friends as a pastor can be difficult, but I have found them to be indispensable. Prayerfully seek out those who have the spiritual maturity to walk with you. Having a safe place to work through your struggles might be the thing that keeps your ministry from running off the tracks.
Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. As such, we have to discipline ourselves for the long haul. Paying attention to your personal discipleship, physical and spiritual rest and supporting relationships can go a long way to keep us in the race.