My dog is really smart. I’m not just bragging (well, yes I am). She learned to sit, stay, lie down, heal and come within about a week. Seriously. Great dog. But she’s also smarter than many people I know. You know what she does? When she gets tired, she finds a quiet place and sleeps! Can you believe that?
Most people I know — in fact, most pastors I know — only rest when they can no longer hold their eyes open. They work “sacrificially” until they cannot work any longer and then basically drop into bed at night. Truth is, as a group, pastors may be worse about this than most.
Of all people, pastors should understand the need for Sabbath best. But ironically, even they get it wrong much of the time. When I assess pastors, one of the questions I ask is about their weekly sabbath routine. Sadly, more than half (and it doesn’t matter what their theological or denominational background is) begin to tell me about their Sunday morning schedule! The question is not about how they prepare and execute the Sunday worship service — it’s about their weekly patterns of rest. While we certainly should spend time in personal worship during any given sabbath, the definition of the word — and God’s clear intent in Scripture — is rest.
I regularly meet pastors who do not take advantage of their given day off. I also meet pastors who do not take all of their allotted vacation time. And rare is the pastor I meet who has regularly scheduled retreats throughout the year for extended rest, prayer and planning. We have become part of an over-scheduled, over-worked world rather than standard bearers for a different kind of life. Recently I spoke to one pastor who was clearly proud that he had never taken all of his given vacation and, in fact, had not had a vacation with his family in over 2 years! Friends, that’s sin.
Aside from the obvious impact on the pastor’s family, neglecting sabbath rhythms will always have a direct impact on one’s health, emotional state, stress level and ministry. No pastor that neglects the Fourth Commandment has any right to be frustrated that his congregation is too busy for church. Sabbath was commanded by God for a reason — we need it.
Do you struggle in this area? I would love to talk with you about that. Feel free to use the Contact feature on this website or call my office at (321) 348-0020. I’ve learned about keeping my own sabbath the hard way — and I have subsequently helped many pastors and others to build good rhythms into their own lives. Finally, if you find this post helpful, would you please share it with a friend? I’d appreciate it.