The Problem Of Busy Pastors


This morning I spent some time with a fellow pastor in our community. We have a great friendship and meet periodically to discuss our lives and ministries. As we were finishing our conversation this morning, our discussion touched on our schedules. We lamented how “busy” we were and whether or not this reflected well on our primary calling – to minister the Word of God and pray (Acts 6:4).

Interestingly enough, I picked up Euguene Peterson’s book The Contemplative Pastor this morning and began reading his chapter on “The Unbusy Pastor.” If you are a pastor or know a pastor send them this blog post and encourage them to pick up Peterson’s book!

Peterson writes…

“The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.”

He continues…

“I (and most pastors, I believe) become busy for two reasons; both are ignoble.

1. I am busy because I am vain. I want to appear important. Significant. What better way than to be busy? The incredible hours, the crowded schedule, and the heavy demands on my time are proof to myself – and to all who will notice – that I am important.

2. I am busy because I am lazy. I indolently let others decide what I will do instead of resolutely deciding myself. I let people who do not understand the work of the pastor write the agenda for my day’s work because I am too slipshod to write it myself. The pastor is a shadow figure in these people’s minds, a marginal person vaguely connected with matters of God and good will. Anything remotely religious or somehow well-intentioned can be properly assigned to the pastor.

He concludes…

But if I vainly crowd my day with conspicuous activity or let others fill my day with imperious demands, I don’t have time to do my proper work, the work to which I have been called. How can I lead people into the quiet place beside the still waters if I am in perpetual motion? How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule constantly to make everything fit into place?

If I am not busy making my mark in the world or doing what everyone expects me to do, what do I do? What is my proper work? What does it mean to be a pastor? If no one asked me to do anything, what would I do?

Three things.

1. I can be a pastor who prays.

2. I can be a pastor who preaches.

3. I can be a pastor who listens.

This is good stuff and I’m only 3 pages into the first chapter!