Ministry doesn’t stop—EVER. When do the needs of people “clock out?” When does opportunity to witness “pause?” When do emergencies take a “break?” When are all the church members fully discipled?
It doesn’t happen. Therefore, there are only two ways to find durability and sustainability in ministry. The first is to be Superman. (Notice I didn’t even say Jesus—because He actually needed rest.) The second is to deliberately, intentionally, strategically REST.
I’m preaching to myself in this post. Resting is hard! But NOT resting is harder! Resting is humbling. It is dependence. It is submission to God’ authority and control. Resting is a spiritual exercise of yielding to God, accepting your own limitations, and acknowledging that “He is the Saviour, not me.”
Benjamin Franklin said, “He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.” Truth. Over the next several days, Dana and I are resting on purpose, at the request of our church family. Here are some reasons why…
1. Sustainable Pace—I’m running a marathon, not a sprint. I’m not competing against others. I want to give my church a pastor who can finish his course without burning out. (I wrote about sustainable pace here.)
2. Personal Health—We all feel invincible until a health trial knocks us flat on our back. Suddenly health becomes precious and not guaranteed. I want to give my church a leader that is trying his best to stay alive for the duration.
3. Spiritual Responsibility—Martin Luther said, “Indeed, to preach the word of God is nothing less than to bring upon oneself all the furies of hell and of Satan, and therefore also of . . . every power of the world. It is the most dangerous kind of life to throw oneself in the way of Satan’s many teeth” I want to give my church a leader that doesn’t allow the demands of the call to demand more than I can give.
4. Mental Clarity—Urgency creates fog. Mental fatigue makes for a poor leader. Flying on fumes is NOT an option. A.W. Tozer wrote, “Retire from the world each day to some private spot… Give yourself to God and then be what and who you are without regard to what others think. Reduce your interests to a few. Don’t try to know what will be of no service to you. Avoid the digest type of mind—short bits of unrelated facts, cute stories and bright sayings.” I want to give my church family a mind that is fresh and a heart that is well-prepared.
5. Emotional Energy—Fatigue and rest is as much spiritual, emotional, and intellectual as it is physical. A fatigued leader is not effective or helpful. A fatigued leader is discouraged, weary, and perhaps even angry or irritable. Emotionally spent people try to avoid people! I desire to give my church a joyful hearted pastor that loves being with them.
6. Marital and Family Health—I LOVE my wife! She’s my best friend. We LOVE being together. We raised a family together. We fought cancer together. We followed God to Connecticut together. We do ministry together. My wife and children should not perpetually have to “sacrifice” time with me while I serve Jesus. That’s dishonoring to God, and destructive to the home and church. I want to give my church a happily married, morally faithful leader with a strong family for the long haul.
7. Church Family Example—Pastors ARE an example, whether they want to be or not. Good examples rest, take breaks, enjoy family vacations, and have a day off. Bad examples don’t. And people follow the example they see. I want to give my church a balanced, faithful example of marriage and family time—that they might biblically balance their own live as well.
8. Honor to The Lord—God rested, not because He needed it, but to show us a pattern. The right kind of rest honors Him. Like tithing shows you don’t worship money, resting shows your don’t worship self. I want to give my church family an example of honoring the Lord through Sabbath rest.
9. Dependence Upon The Lord—When I rest, I declare my dependence upon Jesus. I show that I truly believe God is in control and that He is doing the work. When I deplete myself unnecessarily, I do the opposite. I desire to give my church family a dependent under-shepherd.
10. Health of the Church—If I lead from an unrested, exhausted, fatigued place, I lead unwisely. If I run myself into the ground, I will probably run the church family into the ground. A key to church health is a spiritually healthy pastor. I want Emmanuel to be a healthy place, and resting is a good part of health.
11. Saturation of Ministry Demands—Pastors and ministry leaders don’t ever really “clock out.” It’s a part of the call. The needs are incessant. The only means of real survival is to pull away from the demands long enough to restore. Everyone must come up for air eventually… or die. I desire to give my church family a leader with fresh breath as often as possible.
12. Sanity in Sermon Preparation—Tozer wisely said, “There are certain things that you and I will never learn in the presence of other people.” My favorite part of ministry is studying God’s Word for sermon preparation, but the required pace of preparation for two or three meaty messages each week is unsustainable, apart from regular rests and extended study. I want to give my church family a preacher that doesn’t “shoot from the hip.”
13. Expenditure of Preaching—Public speaking is much more depleting than it appears. From preparation to delivery, it is draining beyond any other kind of work I’ve ever done. I want to give my church family a passionate, energetic preacher/teacher that engages them with God’s Word.
14. Power of Solitude and Vision—Before the advent of internet and iPhone, A.W. Tozer wrote, “Part of our failure today is religious activity that is not preceded by aloneness, by inactivity. I mean getting alone with God and waiting in silence and quietness until we are charged with God’s Spirit… No spot is now safe from the world’s intrusion.” I desire to lead my church family into a clear God-given vision that only comes from solitude with God.
15. Fuel for Passion—Passionless ministry is killing a lot of churches today. But passion must be fueled. It doesn’t sustain itself. Tozer wrote that Jesus would often retreat in private… “Looking upward, He waited until the whole hiatus of divine life moved down from the throne of God into His own soul. He was a violin tuned. He was a battery recharged. He was poised and prepared for the people when they came.” I want EBC to have a passionate pastor leading forward into God’s vision. That vision is only sustainable if it flows from a well-rested life.
Rest is wise. Laziness is unwise. The two are very different. Rest is Christ-like and biblical. If you don’t get it, you won’t be able to adequately fulfill God’s call on your life.
Now, I’m going to strive to take my own advice! And I hope you will too!
Get some rest.